Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Why this was the worst Warriors loss

Warriors player David Fusitu'a looks dejected after their loss during round 25 of the NRL Rugby League match between the Warriors and the West Tigers. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Warriors player David Fusitu'a looks dejected after their loss during round 25 of the NRL Rugby League match between the Warriors and the West Tigers. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Even seasoned - and long suffering Warriors fans - will struggle to understand this one.

Of all the ways that the Auckland club have contrived to miss the playoffs over the last five years, the 36-24 defeat to the Tigers is by far the worst.

It's a psychological blow that might take months to recover from. We will hear all the usual rhetoric, that the players will "learn from this" but that have still to prove they can absorb such lessons.

The simple fact is that with their season on the line, the Warriors conceded six tries, almost all of them relatively soft by NRL standards.

They also blew several good try scoring opportunities, through lack of urgency, awareness or composure.

Under pressure, bad decisions were made, which unfortunately has been a recurring theme this season.

And Solomone Kata - who is a candidate for player of the year - had a moment that will haunt him over the summer, having the ball punched out of his grasp over the try line which brought back memories of Jeff Wilson and George Gregan in 1994.

With nine minutes to play the Warriors held a 24-18 lead and just had to close the game out. But a Luke Brooks 40/20 sparked a Tigers revival, with first Sauaso Sue and then Mitchell Moses crossing near the posts.

The home side were unfortunate with a couple of refereeing decisions, especially with the Shaun Johnson no-try call late in the second half, as a 12 point lead at that stage may have been enough to bank the win.

But as both coach Andrew McFadden and captain Ryan Hoffman pointed out, those obstruction calls didn't decide the outcome.

What made the difference was - as it so often does in the NRL - desire and desperation.

The Tigers simply wanted to win more, while the Warriors seemed to think they just needed to turn up and bank the two points, after the Panthers had done them a massive favour last night with their win over the Titans.

It's a harsh way to end what had been, until two weeks ago, a promising second half of the year. The Warriors looked like they were good enough to be in the playoffs, but proved over 80 minutes on Sunday afternoon they weren't.

Now they have to endure what is surely the worst feeling in professional sport; a entire off season of `what ifs' and `if onlys', knowing that they were far from their best when it really counted.

"The season was on the line [and] it was our chance to sneak into the eight," said Jacob Lillyman. "We were in control and then they got those late tries [and] it all went up in dust. We had everything to play for. We had it, we just needed to close it out and we came up short."

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