Flanagan unloads on refs after Sharks' NRL defence ends in controversy

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Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan launched a scathing attack on what he felt was a series of poor refereeing decisions as his side's NRL defence was ended by an extra-time defeat to North Queensland Cowboys.

The Cowboys, the 2015 premiers, clinched a 15-14 victory in a play-off elimination match littered with controversy at Allianz Stadium - gaining revenge after losing to the Sharks in the Finals 12 months ago.

Flanagan was incensed after the defeat and read out a list of decisions he said officials got wrong in the match.

Among his grievances was the call to award a late penalty against Matt Prior from which the Cowboys tied the game, and Paul Gallen being penalised for a knock-on just shy of the line shortly after when Flanagan felt the ball had been illegally stripped from his grasp.

An emotional Flanagan, who also questioned a first-half sin-binning for James Maloney, expressed his belief that more needs to be done to improve decision making in NRL.

"When is James Maloney a professional foul? It's not a professional foul. It's a penalty, if that," he said.

"Luke Lewis got run off the ball every time. Go and watch the video how many times he got knocked to the ground in kick-chase.

"Jayden Brailey going in to tackle the kicker, the kicker kicks the ball at him. He doesn't play at it. Scrum, Cowboys feed.

"If anyone on this planet thinks Andrew Fifita knocked the ball on, it went tunnel ball through his legs.

"Paul Gallen, trying to get up to play the ball, and there's a bloke that pulls the ball out.

"But go down the other end of the field, Matt Prior affecting the tackle, they say he pulls it out and they kick a goal.

"Paul Gallen's should have been a penalty, game over we win the game, full stop. So we talk about decisions, crucial decisions, all wrong.

"It's disappointing for a game that we're talking about this now. But I had to come and talk about it because in my view, it impacted on the result.

"Those things get factored in the result. In my view, we need to fix it up. Imagine if that was a grand final... well those two [referees] won't be there."