The NRL says it cannot apologise enough for the "human error" that saw Cronulla awarded a seven-tackle try in its 20-18 win over North Queensland in their elimination final.
Bean Ryan scored the Sharks' opening try in the eighth minute at the Sydney Football Stadium but replays later showed it was awarded on the seventh tackle by referees Matt Cecchin and Henry Perenara.
The decision proved crucial to the outcome of the match, with the Cowboys departing the finals series for a second consecutive year amid a refereeing controversy.
The NRL admitted at half-time all six match officials had made a mistake and it was announced immediately after the match an inquiry would be held.
NRL referres coach Daniel Anderson says there was no excuse as to why the incident occurred when the two video referees and touch judges also share the responsibility to correctly count the tackles.
"We've got six or seven people that count the tackle count in every game and all the fail-safes failed at the same time," he told Grandstand.
"That's the most disappointing aspect of it, it is not a single error. It's a whole match official crew who can hold their hand up and admit we let down our rugby league public at that moment."
The Cowboys had lost possession near the Sharks' line following a Robert Lui grubber kick in the build-up to Ryan's try.
Cecchin lost track of the tackle count, calling "four" at what should have been the fifth tackle, en route to the Sharks finding their way to the Cowboys' line
Anderson was reluctant to expand on what punishment would be handed out to the match officials, but he admits action will be taken.
"There will be a price to pay," he said. "That is what happens when it's a serious error."
Anderson says he made the decision to inform Cecchin and Perenara at half-time instead of waiting until after the final whistle.
He says they were "shattered" and "gutted" and their performance in the second half reflected their disappointment.
"They (refs) were rattled, let's not be naive about it," Anderson said.
"They knew about it at half-time and they were very disappointed. They had to compose and gather themselves to do justice for the rest of the game."
Cowboys coach Neil Henry says the match officials need to be held accountable for the mistake.
"No-one goes out deliberately to get the tackle count wrong," he said.
"But the fact that it happened on this stage it's just massive in the context of the game - for the club and the game in general.
"It's just not a good look and it just so it happens that it has been us for a couple of years ... I just think with the number of officials you've got these things shouldn't happen."
Henry, who received an apology from NRL chief executive David Smith, says he chose not to tell his players about the mistake until after full-time.
"It happened, there was no real point on dwelling on that in the change rooms [at half-time] but we discussed it later," he said.
"At the end of the day it is done and dusted."
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan insists there was nothing sinister in the decision, saying the referees never set out to award his side a try in dubious circumstances.
"I do care [about the decision], obviously I'd hate to lose a game that way, but it was done early and these things happen in a game," he said.
"It's human error, they've made a mistake, I'm sure they didn't do it deliberately.
"We've been the beneficiary here, we just need to move on and if it takes away a bit of limelight from our end, I can't do anything about that."