NZ Warriors coach Nathan Brown pinpoints the sin-binning of utility forward Jazz Tevaga as the catalyst for his side's 29-28 defeat against North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville on Friday.
Late in the first half, and with the Warriors down 10-6 on the scoreboard, Tevaga was given 10 minutes in the sin bin for a late shot on Cowboys forward Heilum Luki.
And with Tevaga in the bin, tries to Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater made the contest all the more difficult for the Warriors to stay in, going into halftime 22-6 down.
Commentator Warren Smith lamented the tackle as "crazy".
"That was a crazy late tackle there, there was no need to make that tackle from Jazz Tevaga."
Tevaga was also placed on report for the incident.
Despite a second-half rally, with tries to Euan Aitken, Reece Walsh, Marcelo Montoy and Ben Murdoch-Masila, the Cowboys snatched victory thanks to a Valentine Holmes field goal with minutes remaining on the clock.
Speaking post-match, coach Brown says that the 10 minutes with 12 men ultimately cost the Warriors what would have been their first back-to-back wins of 2021.
"It helps when you've got 13 out there," Brown said.
"The game was decided by the sin-binning - and it was a fair sin-binning - but that's where the game was lost.
"We didn't handle the sin bin. Last week we had two and handled it quite well with our defence. Today we came up short with 12 and paid the price for it.
"Until the sin-binning it was a pretty tight half of footy."
The sin binning comes amidst a crackdown on high tackles in the NRL, resulting in more players than ever before being sent to the bin.
The Warriors' defeat leaves them sitting 10th on the NRL ladder after 12 matches played, sitting outside of the top eight on points differential.
The Kiwi side could drop further by the end of the round, with Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights playing on Saturday and Sunday respectively, both able to pass the Warriors with the right results.
The Warriors will have the chance to lick their wounds over the coming week, with a round 13 bye before returning to action against Melbourne Storm on June 13.