Dragons coach Paul McGregor admits his side was "strangled" by the pressure of the business end of the season as they succumbed to a 16-4 defeat to Penrith in front of their home fans.
After scoring the first points of the match in the seventh minute, McGregor's side failed to cross for the remainder of the game despite enjoying the lion's share of possession in the second half.
"A bit pressure to win on us to win today at home [and] it probably got a hold of us a little bit and strangled us a touch," McGregor said post-game.
"We've been playing with a fair bit of flair and challenging sides, and today we done that with a bit more pressure on us and we didn't handle it as good."
With a month to go in the regular season, the loss leaves the Dragons four points adrift of the top eight in 11th spot ahead of next week's clash against the Raiders.
"We always thought we needed to win three of our last five. [It] knocks us out a little bit on for and against, too. So if we win three of our next four it'll come down to for-and-against. We're going to have to win four out of four to get there."
McGregor, who remains unsigned after the end of the season, was particularly disappointed with the number of opportunities his team wasted in attack and were taught a lesson against what he described as a "competent" top-four team.
"She was a hard game to watch at times, yeah. Look, we played a top-four side four times this year and we've been beaten four times. That's the truth of it," he said.
"We're at a stage in development. They're a real competent side and they kept things simple.
"They didn't throw that much footy at us. They just worked us over and won field position. Once they did that, they strangled us a little bit.
"We didn't play with enough composure. I think four times in the second half we kicked on tackle four or less, which we addressed through the week and we just didn't fix it on game day. We tried to score points when we were behind instead of building for them."
Captain Ben Creagh echoed his coach's sentiments, lamenting the team's lack of composure.
"In the last 15 minutes I thought we were chasing points. We didn't play with any composure," he said.
"Like coach said, we were playing like a team under a lot of pressure. We didn't handle it too well at times. I thought the first half we started the game really well, which is something we haven't done for a while here, but again we weren't able to get them on their own goal line."