Whether the Warriors eventually reach the NRL playoffs will be dependent on the identity they assume in the next three weeks.

Will they round out the regular season playing like the side who refused to be beaten in 80 minutes for nine straight games, or will they instead take on the appearance of the team who capitulated at the bookends of that streak?

After falling apart defensively during Saturday night's home hammering against the Rabbitohs, it's difficult to guess which version of the Warriors will turn up in Townsville this weekend, a trip from which they might need to find success if they wish to make the top eight.

After the seventh and eighth-placed Panthers and Titans earned victories, the Warriors sit ninth heading into the final weeks.


It's a standing that was built by their solidity over the last two months and one that would have been a spot better had they avoided a setback against Souths.

"We set ourselves up well these last few weeks," said captain Ryan Hoffman. "We are disappointed but we know very well that we have to move on.

"We've got a road trip next week to Townsville and we have to get back on the horse."

Finding their way into the saddle against the Cowboys will largely involve their work in corralling the home side.

The Warriors were woeful defensively in the first half of the thumping by the Bunnies, allowing their 13th-placed opposition to run in five tries in 30 minutes.

It didn't quite undo every gain made since the Raiders romped to victory in New Plymouth in May, but it did mar the impressive defensive effort the Warriors have produced since that nadir.

In nine games - six victories and three golden-point defeats - the Warriors were conceding an average of 16.6 points.

To put that number in context, only two teams in the competition (leaders Storm and the Cowboys) boast better defensive records across the season.

But the physicality of the Rabbitohs forwards and the flair of Adam Reynolds proved unstoppable, running for almost 200 metres more than their opponents to allow the halfback to create three tries with his boot.

"Everything that has been spoken about on where we need to improve, it can be fixed," Hoffman said.

"We know the type of team we are and we know we're going to have to fix those areas pretty quickly, and we've got all the confidence in the world that we'll be able to do that."

The most obvious area in need of improvement was the way the Warriors were so vulnerable to their opponents' kicking game.

Coach Andrew McFadden attributed the lapse to a combination of poor positioning and a lack of desire, two areas where Tuimoala Lolohea was especially guilty.

The fullback was hooked from the field early in the second spell, with McFadden opting to move the more physical David Fusitu'a to the back, a decision that could be replicated against the Cowboys where Blake Ayshford could fill in at centre.