Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has urged his players to fix their poor completion rate in order to save their top four aspirations after a woeful second half saw Canterbury go down 20-10 against the Broncos on Thursday night.
A try 40 seconds from half-time saw the visitors trail 10-4 at the break but making 13 errors in the second term and completing only 12 of 22 sets at 55 per cent gave the Broncos a gilt-edged invitation they were not going to pass up.
Stressing the importance of a top-four finish ahead of games against the Cowboys and Rabbitohs to round out the regular season, Hasler said their errors and ill-timed offloads were self-inflicted and not caused by the resurgent Broncos defence.
Bulldogs players regularly pushed passes in pressure situations as they sought to keep pace with Brisbane in the second half but Hasler was quick to step in when captain James Graham was asked whether the Broncos' defence contributed to their errors.
"None. I'll answer that, none," Hasler said.
"Completely unforced. Play-the-ball, offload, it's got nothing to do with tenacious defence, it's just wrong decisions at wrong times.
The two sides engaged in a tense arm wrestle throughout the majority of the first half that compared favourably to the intensity of a finals clash but the Broncos – while far from perfect at 70 per cent completions – were more disciplined with ball in hand.
Unperturbed by conceding a try just before the break, Hasler made it very clear where the game was won and lost as Brisbane scored a converted try and kicked two penalty goals to kick clear and keep their own top-four prospects alive.
"Both sides were trading blows pretty well I thought but to put it bluntly, we were inept with the ball in the second half to the tune of 11 from 20," Hasler said.
"That's been the last month. The last five weeks it has crept back in and if we don't react to it and if we don't sort it out then you can't be competitive.
"It's 10-4 at half-time, you go in, you're down a try. You come back out in the second half and expect to complete 17 from 20 and you don't. You tackle, you lose energy, you lose intent, can't play footy.
"The good thing about it is that we can remedy it. We can fix it."
Canterbury made just nine handling errors in the golden point win over Manly in Round 23 and captain James Graham was at a loss to explain why he and his teammates had shown such scant regard for possession against the Broncos.
"I don't know. You could see the individuals involved, I don't think they mean it," Graham said.
"I was one of them but if I knew the answer to the question on how to solve it, I would tell the boys in the dressing room."