Herald rugby league writers David Skipwith and Michael Burgess examine three key points from the Warriors 30-14 NRL defeat to St George Illawarra in Hamilton.
1.Lack of punch up-front
The Warriors have been found wanting through the middle of the park in their last two games and their forwards have been out-enthused by both the Panthers and Dragons packs.
Front-rowers Ben Matulino and James Gavet are running and tackling strongly but have had little support while hooker Issac Luke has had too few opportunities to run from dummyhalf.
Back-rowers Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson have been down on form and are limited in what they provide for the side on attack, while the absence of lock Simon Mannering has been sorely missed on defence.
A lack of offloads means the Warriors are often working through sets looking to run through their set plays, but poor go-forward and slow play the balls have seen them easily contained.
2. Fragile right-edge defence
The Warriors have defensive issues across the board but their brittle right-edge has been ruthlessly exposed in their last two defeats.
The Dragons three first-half tries came all too easily with bad defensive reads and poor communication leaving the Warriors caught short down the right flank.
Rookie wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was left in no-man's land on a couple of occasions but captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck believes the problems start closer in.
"(I was) talking to the centres and the back-rowers, I think the link between them was lost a few times," said Tuivasa-Sheck.
"We lost the rucks, that's where it was pretty tough, because we had too many players on the ground and they were running through us in the middle, which brings the outside men in and opens space for them out wide."
3. Struggling for confidence
Under pressure coach Stephen Kearney conceded his players are down after leaking 30 points or more in their last two outings.
With only four wins from 11 starts the Warriors have slipped down another spot to occupy 13th place on the premiership ladder.
Next Saturday's home clash against Brisbane at Mt Smart Stadium looms as all important to getting their season back on track with back-to-back away games against the Eels and Titans to follow.
"If they were down on confidence following last week's defeat they are probably a little down on confidence after tonight," said Kearney.
"It's really important that we recognise where we are and make sure that we work our way back to what we think we're capable of.
"And that's my job and the coaching staff's job to make sure that we get the players heading in that direction."
4. Back to the drawing board for Warriors
After all the positive words in the wake of the Penrith debacle last week, the psychological damage of that defeat was in stark evidence last night in the 30-14 loss to St George-Illawarra in Hamilton.
The Warriors made a reasonable start, doing well to keep the Dragons out early and scoring the first try of the match through Ben Matulino.
But that was the high point of the night and proved a false dawn. Things rapidly deteriorated in the second quarter - the Dragons scored three tries and could have had at least one more - as the Warriors shoulders started to slump. League is a confidence game and the Auckland team look fragile at the moment.
James Gavet stands out:
As he has done in many games this season, James Gavet led the way amongst a beaten pack last night. The 27-year-old provided a confrontational edge that most of his teammates couldn't match, and invariably got quick play the balls. But the Dragons engine room was simply outstanding, headed by Paul Vaughan and Russell Packer. Packer looked a man on a mission against his old team while Vaughan continued the form that has seen his listed as a NSW Origin bolter. It's galling to watch, as Vaughan was a free agent last year but not pursued by the Warriors.
Put road trips on ice:
The Warriors would do well, for a few seasons at least, to give up on the idea of playing games around the country. While it is a good exercise to spread the gospel, it should be limited to pre-season matches because the team has a dreadful record when they leave Auckland. Friday night's loss to the Dragons meant that the Warriors have won only two of their last 11 games in New Zealand venues outside Auckland, including the poor efforts last year in New Plymouth and Christchurch. Best to shelve the idea until the team has some winning seasons under their belt.