Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has not minced his words about his team's inability to all but wrap up a finals spot against the Titans on the Gold Coast, branding the performance "soft".
After a committed performance in the 12-6 loss to Telstra Premiership hot shots Melbourne last weekend and a convincing win over Brisbane, the Warriors were outplayed to the tune of 28-0 in the second half against the 12th-placed Titans.
He took aim particularly at his senior men, suggesting they should be shamed of the fact the team’s youngest two players – 19-year-old Joseph Vuna and 20-year-old Isaiah Papali’i – were their most committed performers in the 36-12 loss.
"I don't like using the word, but thought it was pretty soft in the second half," Kearney said.
"That’s the disappointing aspect. There was a fair bit on the line today and to produce a second half of that standard makes it very disappointing.
"I’m scratching my head trying to figure that out [the second half fade-out]. I was very disappointed with our second half today and I thought there were signs of it in the first half.
"I just saw moments of softness – whether on the kick chase, whether it was trying to build some ruck speed and support each other. There were moments in the first half and we did enough to navigate around it and it must be said we came up against a very committed footy team today who put us to the sword.
Match Highlights: Titans v Warriors - Round 20, 2018
"I thought our two most committed players today were a 19-year-old back-rower [Vuna] and the other turned 20 last week [Papali’i] and they were our starting back-rowers. I think that said something about our performance when we had two young fellas leading the way for us.
"We have to stare that in the face. We have a big challenge ahead of us next week against the Dragons."
The Warriors sit on 24 competition points in eighth place on the NRL ladder - they trail Cronulla, Brisbane and Penrith by only one win but have a differential of -20.
Wests Tigers are two wins behind with five rounds remaining. The Warriors have a relatively comfortable draw after they play the Dragons in Wollongong next Saturday so they should be safe in the finals race – but are not yet certain to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
They take on Newcastle, Canterbury, Penrith and Canberra to finish the regular season.
Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who had a quiet match, agreed with his coach’s "soft" assessment of the disappointing performance considering their 7-2 record on the road in 2018.
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"We sat down and spoke about it and a few of us agree with that," he said.
"We came over with not the same intentions [as previously this season]. We prepped really well during the week and came here with a job to do but we didn’t get it done."
The Warriors will spend the next few days in camp on the Gold Coast before heading to Wollongong for the WIN Stadium clash on Saturday. Key forwards Isaac Luke and Tohu Harris will join the squad on Monday after being sidelined with injury for the Gold Coast game.