Wests Tigers lose fight against NRL to overturn controversial Cowboys loss

Wests Tigers have failed to overturn their loss to the Cowboys after the NRL backed the bunker’s controversial interpretation of the captain’s challenge.

The Wests Tigers’ pursuit of justice is over but the end came with a one final backhander directed at the NRL. The Tigers, having opted not to pursue legal action against head office over their loss to North Queensland a fortnight ago when a penalty was wrongly awarded against them after the siren, signed off with a declaration that everyone knew who really won the game.

“We have made our point to the NRL and made it forcibly,” the Tigers said.

“We did so on behalf of our members and fans and gave voice to their legitimate concerns that the outcome of the match was not just nor fair.

“We extracted a concession from the NRL that the obstruction penalty which was given was erroneous and therefore, by implication, Wests Tigers should have won that match.

“We know it, everyone knows it. Unfortunately, the history books will not record it that way.”

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Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis says the club will not pursue legal action over their controversial Round 19 loss.
Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis says the club will not pursue legal action over their controversial Round 19 loss.

The Tigers’ decision not to pursue legal action over their controversial loss round 19 has saved the game from the embarrassment and expense of another costly court battle.

Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis and chief executive Justin Pascoe met the NRL last week to argue their case but their plea fell on deaf ears, leaving the club with legal action as their only remaining course of action.

After taking the weekend to consider their options, the Tigers opted against taking the NRL to court as they closed the book on the loss to the Cowboys.

The NRL had already done so, releasing a statement on Monday in which they ruled out reversing the result.

“Litigation is, at best, inherently risky and Wests Tigers is not prepared to commit to what would be speculative litigation particularly in light of the cogent arguments which are available to both parties,” the Tigers said.

“Wests Tigers is also cognisant that pursuing the matter through the courts will be a distraction for the NRL, particularly as we approach the end of this season and may therefore not be in the best interests of the game as a whole.”

In a concession to the Tigers, the NRL have said they will review the captain’s challenge rule and the Tigers would be front and centre during that process.

However, they said there would be no further consideration given to the match, which had seemingly ended in a Tigers win after they defused a Cowboys kick-off with one second remaining on the clock.

The infamous game ended in controversy after a collision between Cowboys player Kyle Feldt and Tigers player Asu Kepaoa clashed. Picture: NRL.com.
The infamous game ended in controversy after a collision between Cowboys player Kyle Feldt and Tigers player Asu Kepaoa clashed. Picture: NRL.com.

Referee Chris Butler, however, blew a “short whistle” and allowed a captain’s challenge on an alleged escort on North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt by Tigers winger Asu Kepaoa.

Bunker official Ashley Klein upheld the challenge, overlooking that Cowboys centre Valentine Holmes was off-side when kicking off.

“The NRL has acknowledged the concerns raised by the Wests Tigers and in response has put forward its interpretation of the rules which enabled the captain’s challenge to be made and the subsequent decision of the bunker match official,” the NRL said in a statement.

“The NRL has already acknowledged that the bunker official decision of ‘escort’ was incorrect, leading to the erroneous awarding of a penalty in favour of North Queensland Cowboys which ultimately decided the match.

“On the matter of whether the captain’s challenge was permissible in terms of how the rules were drafted, the NRL and the Wests Tigers expressed differing views and interpretation.

“The NRL is comfortable with the interpretation that was applied but has acknowledged, in light of the concerns raised by the Wests Tigers, that the rule needs to be reviewed at the end of the season to provide more clarity so as to ensure that there is no future misunderstanding as to the intent and application of the rule.

“Wests Tigers will be consulted as part of the review, together with other interested clubs and stakeholders.”

TIGERS BOARD DECIDE ON TAKING ACTION

Wests Tigers are still considering whether or not to pursue the NRL legally for the two competition points they were denied because of a referee error despite meeting with the governing body last Thursday.

It is understood the majority of the Tigers board will meet on Sunday before the clash against Newcastle at Campbelltown Stadium.

The board will decide if there is an appetite to push their case to the next level and chase the two competition points they felt they deserve following their dramatic loss to North Queensland.

Tigers officials Lee Hagipantelis and Justin Pascoe met with the NRL top brass on Thursday at Peter V’landys’ office at Racing NSW headquarters. They were told that mistakes were made but given no indication the result would be reversed. There is no appetite from the NRL to overturn the result which would have ramifications for the Cowboys top four hopes.

Chairman Hagipantelis informed the Tigers board of the meeting on Friday and will now allow them to consider if they want to pursue the matter further.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said he understood the Tigers’ frustrations but hoped they would not commence legal action.

“Tigers fans should be happy that lee and Justin prosecuted their case well,” V’landys said on Triple M. “We can understand their frustration and where they are coming from. But it sets an awful precedent to change a game and change the points. Otherwise you will be in court every second weekend.

“The referee makes mistakes and they usually even out in the match. There were probably other mistakes which impacted the Cowboys.”

The Tigers were beaten in the final second of the game against the Cowboys a fortnight ago when North Queensland were awarded a penalty following a successful captain’s challenge by the home side.

V’landys said the referral to the bunker caused the greatest angst for the Tigers.

“Was the captain’s challenge legal because of the challenge,” V’landys said “It’s a grey area. I heard (from) NRL management and the Tigers. I can see it’s a little bit ambiguous. We need to fix it and make the rule clearer. That’s what we will do at the end of the year.

“I’m confident the Tigers will accept the decision.”

The next step for the Tigers would be to pursue legal action and take the matter to court to chase the points. They hope to have a decision by Monday at the latest as they look for closure on the issue.

Prominent barrister Yaseen Shariff SC, has been engaged by the Tigers to explore their legal options.

FINAL FLING: TIGERS INTENSIFY EFFORTS TO REVERSE CONTROVERSIAL LOSS

Wests Tigers officials have been granted an audience with ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo as they intensify efforts to reverse the result of their controversial loss to North Queensland.

News Corp understands that NRL head of football Graham Annesley wrote to Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis over the weekend offering the club the opportunity to sit down with the game’s foremost powerbrokers this week.

It shapes the Tigers’ final and most important fling as they look to convince key officials that they were robbed of two points in their loss to North Queensland just over a week ago.

Andrew Abdo and Peter V'landys will meet with Wests Tigers officials. Picture: Getty Images
Andrew Abdo and Peter V'landys will meet with Wests Tigers officials. Picture: Getty Images

V’landys and Abdo will head into the meeting armed with a report that has been completed by the NRL — the pair spent the weekend digesting its contents following the Tigers’ controversial loss to the Cowboys, which was decided by a Valentine Holmes penalty goal when the 80 minutes had expired.

That report holds the key to the Tigers’ hopes of convincing the ARL Commission to take their protests seriously. The Tigers have hired a high-powered lawyer Yaseen Shariff SC — part of Jack de Belin’s legal team in his quest to overturn the no-fault stand down rule — to act on their behalf.

The ARL Commission has some legal muscle of their own. Alan Sullivan QC became a commissioner in February and it seems hard to believe that V’landys and Abdo won’t have enlisted his advice to help them navigate the current situation involving the Tigers.

Sullivan was on the other side of the courtroom to Shariff during the De Belin saga, acting on behalf of the game.

Asu Kepaoa was controversially penalised in the last play of the game. Picture: NRL.com
Asu Kepaoa was controversially penalised in the last play of the game. Picture: NRL.com
Asu Kepaoa is consoled by Tigers teammates after the match. Picture: NRL Photos
Asu Kepaoa is consoled by Tigers teammates after the match. Picture: NRL Photos

At the heart of the dispute is the decision in the final seconds to award a penalty to the Cowboys that allowed him to kick a penalty goal and win the game in Townsville.

The Tigers have been on the warpath ever since as they attempt to convince the ARL Commission to give them the two points, a decision that would no doubt prompt the Cowboys to explore legal action of their own given they are entrenched in the top four and harbour an outside hope of reeling in Penrith to win the minor premiership.

Originally published as Wests Tigers lose fight against NRL to overturn controversial Cowboys loss

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