Warriors boss Andrew McFadden admits he didn’t foresee his side’s lacklustre first-half performance in their 41-22 loss to lowly South Sydney.
The Warriors went into the match in eighth place and as strong favourites against the Rabbitohs, who were looking to avoid their 10th NRL loss on the trot.
The side played with intent early on and took the lead through a barging Solomone Kata but collapsed within 10 minutes.
A kicking masterclass from Souths halfback Adam Reynolds, who assisted three first-half tries through grubbers and a field goal, left the Warriors reeling.
An improved second-half performance from the Auckland-based side was not enough to salvage the match, and leaves their finals hopes on a knife edge with three games remaining.
South Sydney, meanwhile, will take confidence from their performance in what has been a disappointing 2016 campaign.
“They had a good plan to kick in behind us and even though we knew that was coming, we lacked the desperation to get to the ball first,” McFadden said.
“Outside the first 10 minutes they just dominated field position and real momentum.”
Souths’ forward pack steamrolled the Warriors for large stretches of the match, finishing with almost 200 more running metres than their opponents.
Reynolds then used his side’s strong field position to hit the Warriors in the corners, putting on grubber kicks for Alex Johnston, Aaron Gray and Joe Burgess to score.
Further tries to Burgess, Greg Inglis and Hymel Hunt settled the contest.
McFadden said his side’s heads dropped as Souths racked up the points.
“Their forwards did a really good job and we were just a little bit off, and they got on the front foot,” he said.
Captain Ryan Hoffman echoed his coach’s remarks, saying the Warriors put themselves under too much pressure chasing in the game.
“If we didn’t have to chase so many points I reckon we would’ve been a bit more patient in that second half and executed more,” Hoffman said.
For Souths, the victory was a long time coming.
Coach Michael Maguire said the performance was befitting the strength of his squad, which has been ravaged by injury throughout 2016.
“We’ve obviously been through a fairly tough period as a club in the past couple of months,” Maguire said.
“To get those last two performances was probably a true reflection of the team I have.”
The Rabbitohs would now strive to finish 2016 on the right note and with a healthy squad.
“We know the future is moving into a pre-season at some stage and the boys, to their credit, and the leadership have said that we start now,” Maguire said.