Off-contract Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson's game management has again come under question in the wake of their 20-14 NRL Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne.
There were encouraging signs as the Warriors produced their best performance of the season against the competition leaders and Johnson tackled strongly and played a key role in engineering two tries to wing David Fusitu'a.
However, despite looking sharp with the ball in hand the much maligned Kiwis international's involvement was lacking throughout the dying stages and his last tackle options found wanting when the game was hanging in the balance.
The Warriors were trailing 12-14 inside the final 10 minutes when a turnover from Storm interchange forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona provided the chance they needed to push for victory.
Strong runs from back-rower Ryan Hoffman and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took them within 20 metres of the Storm line but Johnson and halves partner Kieran Foran were unable to take charge before the No7's fifth-tackle kick was safely fielded by Storm left wing Josh Addo-Carr.
Five minutes later the visitors threatened once more when Foran found Johnson down the short side but the chance to score or apply further pressure was again missed when he misdirected a chip-kick straight into the hands of Melbourne's right wing Suliasi Vunivalu.
The contrast in class and composure between the two side's senior players was evident throughout that period, with Storm captain Cameron Smith wisely finding touch near the Warriors line as the clock wound down.
Their next chance in Warriors territory saw the Kangaroos skipper calmly direct his team into position before delivering the pass for back-rower Felise Kaufusi to barge over for the match-winning try in the 77th minute.
"They've got some pretty handy players that know how to manage that part of the game pretty well," Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said of the Storm's street smarts.
"Both teams were pretty fatigued at that time but they've got some pretty smart guys there that know how to manage the back end of a game."
The perception that Johnson struggles to take charge of games wasn't helped by his apparent indecision when the Warriors were awarded penalties either side of halftime.
Johnson initially appeared keen to keep the pressure on through a quick tap or kick for the line but the 26-year-old looked frustrated and the moment was lost when he appealed for guidance from the sidelines.
He was successful with both attempts at goal but the two-point buffers posed little obstacle to the home side and chances to apply greater scoreboard pressure through tries were missed.
Despite the defeat Kearney was satisfied with his side's effort while they face a short turnaround before hosting the Sydney Roosters in Sunday's clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
"There's some (positives) to take out of it for sure," he said. "We've got plenty of improvement in us too.
"It was a wonderful effort by our lads tonight there's no doubt about that.
"It came down to the back end of the game, how it finished. It was a real credit to our guys and the improvement is making sure that we continue to do that and we come out the winners next time."
Warriors front-rower Jacob Lillyman was hit with a grade one charge for a careless high tackle on Storm forward Jordan McLean but is free to play the Roosters after taking an early guilty plea and paying a $1,100 fine.