The NRL have disagreed with the call to penalise Dolphins forward Herman Ese'ese for a scrum infringement during Saturday's narrow loss to the Newcastle Knights.

The loss, which knocks the Dolphins all but out of the finals race, and keeps the Knights well in the picture, saw the Dolphins fall by just two points to Adam O'Brien's side.

A moment late in the game was shrouded in controversy after Ese'ese grabbed the jersey of Leo Thompson as the pair attempted to break from a scrum.

The incident came with just three minutes to go and the Dolphins attacking the Knights' tryline with a chance to score and potentially win the game.

Instead, the penalty saw the Knights march back up the other end of the ground and hold on for a squeaky victory, which also was their fifth in a row.

In assessing the incident during his footy briefing on Monday, the competition's head of football Graham Annesley said that while penalties have been blown for scrum infringements throughout the season, they usually occured when the ball remained close to the scrum in the following plays.

In this instance, the Knights spread the ball wide in looking for a try with halfback Jackson Hastings eventually taking the first - and as it turned out only - tackle of the set.

"There is no try that comes from this particular incident. Normally, it would be Tackle 1, but you'll see Ese'ese has hold of the jersey of Leo Thompson. Thompson tries to bat him away, Ese'ese continues to hold it and then released after another attempt to bat it away," Annesley said on the incident.

"What I wanted to say about this is that while we have seen penalties for this earlier in the season, it usually involves penalties where the play heads down either side of the scrum quite close to the scrum.

"In this case, there was no real consequence of what takes place. You could probably go through video tapes every week and find instances of players not releasing immediately when a scrum breaks up, but what the referees have to look for is 'what's the consquence of that action?'"

Annesley admitted that while the decision was technically correct, it was an extremely harsh penalty given Ese'ese holding Thompson into the scrum made no actual bearing on the result of the next play.

"In my view on this one, given where the ball goes, and that no one is prevented from making that tackle, and that the defensive line would have had time to reset after that tackle, I think that's a very harsh penalty," Annesley said.

"At this point, there were only a matter of minutes to go in the game, and instead of being on the attack, the Dolphins end up defending their own goalline.

"The decision isn't wrong. The incident did happen. It's a breach of the rules to do what Ese'ese did, and frankly, it was a silly thing to do. It was the wrong thing to do, but equally, it had no impact on that particular play, and I think that particular incident should have been allowed to continue."