Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was bemused as to why Brisbane prop Tom Flegler wasn't sent off after knocking out Isaah Yeo with a high shot on Saturday night.
Flegler was sin-binned in the eighth minute of a try-less first half before the clunky Panthers overcame the early loss of their captain to ward off the valiant Broncos in an 18-12 win at Suncorp Stadium.
The victors missed a huge 66 tackles leading into a top-of-the-table clash with the Storm that could decide the minor premiership.
Given Yeo's history of concussion, Penrith may be missing the Origin lock as well as hooker Apisai Koroisau (suspended), prop James Fisher-Harris (leaving Queensland bubble for child's birth) and halfback Nathan Cleary (shoulder) in next week's blockbuster.
And Tyrone May, who has been deputising for Cleary in the No.7 jersey, limped from the field with 19 minutes remaining.
Match: Panthers v Broncos
Round 19 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Coach Cleary was concerned for Yeo, who was clocked by Flegler as the Panther speared towards the try-line, and felt Brisbane should have been forced to play with 12 men for most of the match.
"He was knocked out as soon as he hit him," Cleary said.
"It's an illegal act, that's why [Flegler] got sent to the bin, so I don't know what you’ve got to do to get sent off. It's just my opinion.
Flegler sent to sin bin early for high tackle on Yeo
"If it was Magic Round, he would have been sent off," the mentor added in reference to the spate of sin-bins and send-offs that occurred after a crackdown on high contact was implemented in round 10.
"I don't know, we haven't seen [a send off] for a bit. But clearly a high tackle, knocks him out on contact, you lose your captain and one of your best players for the game.
"[Yeo] is alright. Of course [I'm concerned]. Nothing against Flegler, but he hit him high, flush, and knocked him out. What do we need? It certainly affected us a lot worse than it did them."
Asked about the incident, Broncos coach Kevin Walters said: "I thought [Flegler] was pretty desperate to try and stop the try.
"There was certainly no malice in it."
Five-eighth Jarome Luai's return from a knee injury didn't spark Penrith's attack and they led 4-0 at half-time through a Stephen Crichton penalty goal and a two-point Dylan Edwards field goal.
The Broncos defended resolutely, though Cleary believed his team lacked patience with the ball in the opening 40 minutes.
Quick tries to wingers Brian To'o and Charlie Staines and centre Stephen Crichton gave the Panthers an 18-0 buffer in the second term.
But Brisbane refused to roll over, belying their 15th-place ranking as forwards Kobe Hetherington (65th minute) and Ethan Bullemor (72nd minute) scored to give the underdogs a sniff of an upset.
Panthers begin to shift gears as Crichton scores
While competition leaders Melbourne were almost toppled by the Cowboys on Friday night, Cleary knows Penrith must improve sharply - mainly in defence - to take them down next week.
However, he is confident of fixing those issues.
"We've got some things to work on. We were behind in the possession stakes tonight, particularly in the last 20 [minutes], so I think we had a lot of boys pretty tired out there," Cleary said.
"And that played its part. Some of the [tackles] we missed in the first half were through guys out trying to put big shots on.
Bullemor straight through the front door
"The missed tackle count can actually be a little bit out of context sometimes, so I thought that was probably the case in the first half [with 26 misses]. The second half wasn't out of context.
"We were missing tackles that we should have made."
Cleary said his son Nathan was unlikely to be rushed back into the side to face the Storm as he continues his shoulder rehab.