Warriors' finals hopes hang in the balance
They blew a couple of golden opportunities to lock up a finals berth, but the Warriors will now sweat on results going their way over the final two rounds.
Gold Coast is the only team the Warriors can realistically knock out of the finals frame, with Penrith off and gone on the back of three huge percentage-boosting wins in as many weeks.
After a turbulent start to the year the Warriors made their run right on cue during Origin. Sparkling performances brought them comfortably back into the top eight, but the wheels have since fallen off as they struggle to find week-to-week consistency.
They are the first to blame for it, and coach Andrew McFadden did not shy away from that reality.
"It's just simple, individual errors and unfortunately they've crept into our game the last couple of weeks," he said.
"Before that, when we were playing consistently, we didn't have that in our game and if we had one or two we would defend them. But today it was there right through the 80 minutes and you can't do it at this level.
"It's just down to individual concentration. You've got to put a bit more attention on it. They know how to catch a ball and they know how to carry a footy. It's got nothing to do with mental fatigue, it's just individuals not thinking on the field."
McFadden's men were stoic toward the end of the game after simple errors handed the Cowboys early points, possession and confidence.
Lock forward Simon Mannering and second-rower Bodene Thompson were tackling like men possessed to maintain a shred of scoreboard respectability – a kind of desperation that will come in handy next week against a flamboyant Tigers team with nothing to lose.
"We thought we defended pretty well for periods but we just gave up too much possession, and where we committed those errors was the telling factor," McFadden said.
"I know the score line doesn't make for great reading but I was reasonably happy that we kept fighting and showed desperation right to the end."
Their finals chances are now spoken in terms of 'mathematics', but there is genuine reason for hope across the ditch as they will go into both remaining games against the Tigers and Eels (both at Mt Smart Stadium) as resounding favourites, while Gold Coast have to host an in-form Panthers outfit followed by a trip to Townsville in Round 26.