Cowboys coach Paul Green refused to shift any blame for Thursday night's "gut-wrenching" 18-14 loss to the Broncos towards officials, offering his sympathy to club great Matt Scott as the team slips towards a bottom-eight finish.
North Queensland led the match with a couple of minutes remaining but conceded a try to Brisbane halfback Jake Turpin which put an end to a frustrating contest.
"Yeah, it makes it probably a little bit more gut-wrenching," Green said.
"You feel for some of the guys that won't be going around again next year, Matt Scott in particular, what he's given to the club over the years. However, we can't blame anyone else because we put ourselves in that position on the ladder also."
There were some decisions that didn't go the way of the Cowboys but Green wasn't going to start playing the blame game when it comes to the officials and their decisions.
"It doesn't matter. I'm not going to sit here and whinge about refs' decisions. Sometimes they get them right, sometimes they get them wrong," he said.
"I'm not going to let ourselves fall into the trap of shifting blame or accountability. I thought we'd put ourselves in a winning position and should have been able to close the game out.
"We defend one set off the scrum and the game should be over, very disappointing given we'd been battling away there for a while.
"The fact is, we had that game won and we didn't. We were right up there to the seventy ninth minute, but we didn't win the game.
"We haven't learnt our lessons and they've been some tough lessons this year. We've been in winning positions several times but haven't been able to close out the game and get the result that we want, and tonight was another one of those."
Halfback Jake Clifford scored a try, had another disallowed and was good with the boot. Green happy with his young half's performance and also that of debutant Peta Hola who was called in for an injured Jordan McLean.
"It was unfortunate we lost Jordan McLean in our last training session. It gave us the opportunity to give Pete a run, he's been playing really well at Q-Cup level for a while now, so he's a player of the future for us."
Green said McLean should return next week.
"We don't think it's too bad. So [he'll be back] possibly next week, it won't be much longer than that if he doesn't play next week.
Scott came from the field with a HIA but is expected to be fit next week.