A rudderless Warriors attack failed to reap rewards as they were beaten 24-12 by the Canterbury Bulldogs at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight.
The Warriors threatened an unlikely comeback when Shaun Johnson crossed for a converted try inside the last quarter but two late tries to the Bulldogs wings Marcelo Montoya and Brett Morris sank them to their second defeat from three games.
The result ended a six game losing streak for Canterbury, after back-to-back losses to start the year extended a four-game losing run from last season, and eased the pressure on under-fire coach Des Hasler.
But the Warriors have numerous problems, centering around their lack of creativity and predominantly lateral attack that was too easily contained.
A week after losing to Melbourne at a rain-soaked Mt Smart Stadium, they again failed to flourish on a dry-track at the enclosed venue, despite a wealth of attacking territory and possession.
They had seemingly endless chances to score and for the second week in a row, the Stephen Kearney coached side had trouble consistently executing effective last tackle plays.
Johnson found himself under immense pressure from a swarming blue and white defence and a missed first-half try-scoring chance to Ken Maumalo and a penalty conceded by Solomone Kata - after an ill-advised attempt at the line from dummy-half - after the break proved costly.
"The thing that I didn't like was the way we fell away with our defence in that second-half," said Kearney.
"We had a fair bit of possession in the first and second-half and in good position, and didn't capitalise at times so we were really clunky.
"We had a fair bit of opportunity down there and, a bit like last week, Ken bobbled one over the line and others.
"I'll have to have a good look at the tape and see what that looks like. But it just didn't look cohesive."
The Warriors again sorely missed the attacking talents and relentless involvement of captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who was ruled out midweek after failing to recover from a concussion.
The loss also came at an additional cost with veteran wing Manu Vatuvei departing in the 53rd minute after re-injuring his left knee that kept him out of the side over the last fortnight.
The Warriors opened the scoring through back-rower Bodene Thompson but the Bulldogs fought their way into the match with tries to Moses Mbye and Morris' first giving them a 10-6 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs dominated the second-half and continually held the Warriors out, before Johnson's late score offered false hope. The Bulldogs gritty defence held firm and the Warriors submitted in the final 13 minutes to see the score blow out.
"That's the journey we're on as a footy club," said Kearney.
"That's what the NRL is about. That's the business. It is an arm-wrestle and I just felt we didn't respond well enough to it."
The result leaves the Warriors under added pressure to snare a rare away win over St George-Illawarra at UOW Jubilee Oval in Sydney next Sunday.
Warriors 12 (Bodene Thompson, Shaun Johnson tries, Shaun Johnson 2 cons)
Bulldogs 24 (Moses Mbye, Brett Morris 2, Marcelo Montoya tries, Mbye 3 cons, 1 pen)