NRL 2019: Late penalty questioned after heartbreaking Warriors loss

NZ Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is refusing to blame the referees - but he's happy for us to do that for him.

Against the odds, the injury-ravaged Auckland-based side led the NRL table-topping Melbourne Storm into the final five minutes of their ANZAC clash, but were denied by a late penalty and last-ditch field goal to lose 13-12.

The performance, without at least four frontline players, was perhaps their best of recent weeks and probably deserved better than another heartbreaking defeat - their fifth of the season.

"Unfortunately, the game doesn't always reward effort," shrugged Kearney, who took a slightly passive-aggressive approach to the penalty that allowed Melbourne to tie the scores with four minutes remaining.

After making a tackle, forward Isaiah Papali'i was pinged for infringing, when Storm prop Jesse Bromwich appeared to fumble while playing the ball.

"Don't get me started, don't get me started," said Kearney, when questioned about the incident.

"You're asking me the question, so you obviously saw something and I'm pretty sure a number of other people in the stadium were thinking the same thing… disappointing."

When pressed, Kearney refrained from blaming that call for the loss, but seemed happy for media to speculate.

"There were still probably four minutes to go," he said. "One thing I won't do is blame the referees…

"But it's hard when you work really hard like that and you're asking me the question about the decision, so it seems pretty obvious."

The result means the Warriors could slide to the bottom of the NRL table this weekend, with a game against the similarly struggling Newcastle Knights looming next Friday.