The NRL has backed down in the face of criticism, announcing the refereeing crackdown will be eased.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said on Tuesday referees have now been instructed to find a better balance and not to nitpick.
Greenberg and NRL referees boss Bernard Sutton have come in for heavy criticism this season after referees were instructed to clean up the play-the-ball and more strictly police the 10 metres while teams are defending on their own goalline.
The crackdown resulted in a substantial increase in penalties and sin bins, drawing the ire of fans and influential media figures as games became stop-start.
“There has been a tendency for the referees to continue to nitpick,” Greenberg said.
"So we’ve got to be really careful that we find the balance. We want to see the flow of the game continue.
"There has been a lot of penalties in the first half of the year. I am desperately keen to find that balance.
"I don’t want referees looking for penalties.