NRL 2020: NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten refuses to blame controversial bunker decision for Titans defeat

Interim NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten is refusing to blame some questionable refereeing calls, including a disallowed try during his side's shock 16-12 defeat to the Gold Coast Titans on Friday night.

Not for the first time this season, nothing appeared to go the Warriors' way as they raced out to an early 12-0 inside the opening 10 minutes, before the Titans rallied back and scored the game-winning try in the final five minutes.

The Warriors were also on the wrong side of a 5-0 penalty count, but the most controversial decision that went against them came late in the first half when loan forward Jack Hetherington was denied his first NRL try by the bunker. 

The bunker ruled Hetherington had pushed Titans halfback Jamal Fogarty before scoring after a loose Bryce Cartwright pass bobbled into the in-goal area.

If the try had been awarded, the Warriors could have extended their lead to 18-6. 

"Big call," Payten said after the match. "I don't know what other alternatives he had there.

"Of course I didn't [agree with the bunker]. No, I didn't agree with it, but if I was on the flip side of that, in the other box, of course, I agree with it.

"There were a couple of ruck infringements but we didn't get any penalties. It's frustrating but I'm a coach on the losing end of a game, of course, I'm going to say that."

Payten wasn't the only one to disagree with the call with commentators and former players questioning the decision. 

Steve Roach and Corey Parker, two former players who were commentating on the game felt it should have been played on and Hetherington did nothing wrong. 

Those comments were echoed by fellow Fox Sports pundits Greg Alexander and Braith Anasta. 

"The Bunker in my opinion got this wrong," said Anasta. "Hetherington simultaneously contacts Fogarty when he tries to pick up the ball."

Ex-Penrith Panthers boss Phil Gould said it was a "disgraceful call" with former player Jamie Soward said the bunker is looking "for reasons to not award tries".

Regardless of what happened, Payten felt the Warriors should have kicked on after scoring two early tries through Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo. 

Although he is taking some positives from the match. 

"I thought we started well but I was very disappointed. I just thought we softened a little bit after a 12-0 start," he said.

Todd Payten.
Todd Payten. Photo credit: Photosport

"Just some guys missing their assignments defensively and that's something we need to improve no doubt.

"I thought for large parts of it we did show some defensive resolve which a month ago we would have leaked plenty of points.

"So I'm pleased with the improvements we've made there with our defensive structures but at the end of the day we lost the game with some big plays that we should have made."

The loss does continue a worrying trend for the Warriors who have failed to win back-to-back games since August 2018. 

They face the Cronulla Sharks in their next outing on July 19.