It's hard not to feel some sympathy for the Warriors.

While many have reacted with anger at their poor performance in the 27-12 loss to the Panthers, it's perhaps not the right emotion.

The players will already be feeling terrible, as there is not much worse in sport than fluffing your lines on the biggest stage.

The fact that the team – or most of them – played nowhere near to their potential will be the hardest pill to swallow.

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On a grand occasion, with so much at stake, individually and collectively they couldn't summon much.

It was like doing a whole summer of driving lessons, then crashing on the first corner of your test.

Or working all year for a university degree, then missing the bus on the morning of the big exam.

It wasn't what the team, or the coaching staff, deserved after a wonderful season which surprised and thrilled and at times carried the whole nation along for the ride.

They were probably the team of the regular season, with 15 victories, including wins over five of the top eight sides.

There should be pride in that achievement, but right now it won't mean much.

That's because the players failed to heed the warnings about finals football being a completely different ball game.

Coach Stephen Kearney had emphasised all week that "simple is better" but the Warriors instead were fast and loose, carefree rather than careful.

That's the only reason to explain the costly moments in the first half, with incorrect play the balls, an awful kickoff and ill-judged offloads.

Instead of trying to work their way into the game the Warriors were cavalier; you can get away with that in the regular season, but in September there are instant consequences.

Even one unforced error can turn a match, let alone six or seven.

It was the same in the second half, with the series of short dropouts.

Sure, they had worked during the regular season, but last night was a heavy gamble, and well covered and anticipated by the Panthers.

With the team under some intense pressure, and heads down, why invite more?

In the end the inexperience told, with many of the finals rookies struggling with the occasion.

To compound that, some of the senior men didn't produce the kind of 'follow me' performance that was needed.

The best case scenario last night was a fearless performance from the young brigade, and cool composure from the senior heads, but neither happened, with a few exceptions.

And the Roger Tuivasa-Sheck injury was incredibly unfortunate, the worst possible luck.

Despite all that, there was some immense courage on display. The second half defensive effort, viewed in isolation, was one of the best in the season.

It was a relentless onslaught from the Panthers, and in other times the score would have blown out considerably.

The coaching team will also learn some lessons.

The injury to Tuivasa-Sheck played havoc with their plans, but the forward interchange mix across the night wasn't quite right, and at key moments there wasn't enough heavy artillery on the field.

Overall this season should be cherished.

But it ended with a massive anticlimax, and they'll be rocks under the beachtowels for the players as they contemplate their summer break.