Penrith skipper Matt Moylan is devastated by a loose pass he threw to kick-start South Sydney's 42-14 comeback win over the Panthers at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Penrith looked in control for the opening 15 minutes, notching a penalty goal and a try – started and finished by Moylan – to lead at 8-0.
However when Rabbitohs skipper Sam Burgess and Panthers right-edge winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak were each sin-binned in the 16th minute for their part in a fracas, sparked when some Panthers took exception to Burgess's crunching hit on a grounded Nathan Cleary, it kick-started a sequence of events that quickly took the game away from the ninth-placed Panthers and leaves their season hanging by a thread.
Penrith marched upfield following the penalty resulting from the push-and-shove that led to the two sin-bins but a loose pass fired by Moylan out to the right – an area where right centre Waqa Blake was on his own in acres of space with Watene-Zelezniak off the field – the loose ball was scooped up by Souths winger Alex Johnston who ran 90 metres to score the first of his five tries as Souths romped home over the top of Penrith.
"That bad pass turned the tide and they ran the field and got themselves back into the game," Moylan lamented in the post-game press conference.
"We started really well and that eased the pressure off them and turned the tide a bit and that's not what we're about and what we needed at the time."
Despite Moylan blaming himself heavily for the loss – one that leaves the Panthers four competition points adrift of eighth-placed Parramatta and likely needing at least six wins from their final eight games to make the finals – coach Anthony Griffin said there was plenty more wrong with the performance than that one play.
"One pass doesn't kill a game," Griffin said.
"I thought our defensive sets in general, we hung in there all right. It didn't feel like they were much threat to us at all until [their] last play [options]."
Aside from the first try against the run of play, Souths scored four of their remaining six tries from Adam Reynolds last-play kicks which Griffin said was a killer on the day.
"They got a catch over on the right hand side [when Braidon Burns scored] and that one before half-time really hurt. It was just funny that every time they put a kick through or ran the ball on last play we allowed them to score."
Pressed on where the team went wrong, Griffin said: "We were cruising along OK there and then the game just spiralled out of control. Intercepts, not defusing kicks. There was some really big plays they came up with on last play and we weren't strong enough to shut them down."
Penrith had won four games straight prior to last week's loss to the Cowboys and both Griffin and Moylan hoped the big loss to Souths didn't completely dissolve the momentum that had been built up.
"That first 30 minutes we were going along OK but the pressure they put on us once we let in that intercept try, they got the ball in field position and the pressure they put on us on last play we just didn't shut down. If that loss takes away some momentum we have to find it back," Griffin said.
Added Moylan: "It would have been good to get a win today and stay around that top eight but we're going to have to work hard and turn it around next week."
The only injury concern for Penrith from the game was to centre Dean Whare, who left the field in the 61th minute after taking a knock to the jaw, but Griffin was hopeful it wasn’t serious.
"He's got a bang on the jaw. It's not broken. He's having trouble with movement," Griffin said.
"At the moment we're hoping it's not something too serious. We'll have to see the doctor in the morning but they're pretty sure it's not a broken jaw, it's something to do with the ligament around the joint."