David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: New Zealand Warriors fumble away playoff hopes

Tigers 36 Warriors 24
Solomone Kata has the ball punched out as he goes to score a try. Photo / Photosport
Solomone Kata has the ball punched out as he goes to score a try. Photo / Photosport

For a fifth-straight season the Warriors have fallen short of the NRL finals following a disastrous loss to Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium today.

The Warriors have only themselves to blame after failing to cling on to a finals lifeline extended to them by Penrith's one-point win over Gold Coast on Saturday night, before letting slip a 24-18 lead inside the last quarter as the Tigers ran in three unanswered tries to snatch victory and keep their own finals hopes alive.

The home side were entitled to feel hard done by with two controversial obstruction calls from the video bunker denying them a first-half try to Solomone Kata and what looked like being the match-winning four-pointer to halfback Shaun Johnson with 15 minutes remaining.

But ultimately the Warriors were the architects of their own demise.

As it has been all season, their inability to maintain focus and concentration on both attack and defence hurt them, and they repeatedly coughed up unforced errors.

Devastated Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was unhappy at the two no-try decisions but lamented his side's failure to hold on to the ball or make the right decisions at key stages of the game.

"We had more than enough opportunities but just weren't tidy enough with our own game," said McFadden.

"It shows a lack of awareness from the match officials. (But) I'm certainly not going to the loss down to that.

"Both those tries, if you play them in live motion, they're just not obstructions.
"I don't want to harp on that. That's not the reason."

Warriors back-rower Bodene Thompson opened the scoring after seven minutes but further tries went begging when veteran wing Manu Vatuvei lost possession while flying down the left flank and Kata was caught unaware when a desperate Kevin Naiqama punched the ball out of his grasp just short of the line.

The Tigers bounced back to post back-to-back tries to front-row pair Sauaso Sue and captain Aaron woods but the Warriors still enjoyed an 18-12 halftime advantage.

However, a simple missed tackle from a scrum saw Tigers wing Josh Addo-Carr run in a long-range try to bring the visitors level 13 minutes into the second-half.

Some backline brilliance saw Johnson send backline utility Tui Lolohea in to break the deadlock before the Kiwis playmaker was denied his own individual effort.

The Tigers could smell blood and seized the momentum of a inspired Luke Brooks 40/20 kick with Sue getting his second, and five-eighth Mitchell Moses and centre Kevin Naiqama capped the scoring inside the last 10 minutes.

McFadden appeared to read the minds of frustrated Warriors fans when he was unable to explain his side's tendency to self-harm.

"We were just way too loose tonight and you'd think we wouldn't talk about it but we do and it's just not good enough at this level," he said.

"We just threw it away. Just too many errors and we gave away soft points."

The result was the Warriors third straight loss following an embarrassing home loss to South Sydney and last week's thrashing at the hands of reigning premiers North Queensland in Townsville.

Their midseason revival through a promising nine-week run which earned six wins and three golden point defeats now seems like a distant memory and they have only pride left to play for in next Sunday's final round clash against Parramatta.

A fourth-straight loss on Father's Day would leave McFadden's future at the club hanging on a knife-edge which could see him cut with a year remaining on his contract after three limp season finishes outside the top eight.

McFadden was unwilling to reflect on his side's rollercoaster form throughout a tumultuous season saying: "I'm not going to talk about that now. It's too raw. It's shattering because we got the chance last night and we threw it away today."

Warriors 24 (Bodene Thompson, Solomone Kata, Simon Mannering , Tui Lolohea tries; Issac luke 3, Ata Hingano cons)
Wests Tigers 36 (Sauaso Sue 2, Aaron Woods, Josh Addo-Carr, Mitchell Moses, Kevin Naiqama tries, Jordan Rankin 6 cons)

- NZ Herald

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