Canterbury coach Dean Pay says his team only have themselves to blame for a late capitulation against Canberra, conceding three tries in the final six minutes to blow a 14-point lead, but said there were plenty of positive signs as the club begins to move away from its salary cap mess.
Pay conceded the protracted discussions which ultimately saw stars Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods depart before the June 30 deadline to rival clubs had taken a toll but now saw light at the end of the tunnel.
Pay praised the improvement of inexperienced halves pairing Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King, who each had some wonderful touches as the team earned its 24-14 advantage.
Lewis' kicking game and Marshall-King's running game each paid dividends at different times while PNG Test back-rower Rhyse Martin continues to make the most of his mid-career push up to NRL level with a stunning 24-point haul.
Martin's three tries and six goals from as many attempts equalled Corey Parker's NRL-era record of most points in a premiership match by a forward while it was also the biggest solo points haul in a loss.
"For all the hard work they put in, we just did a couple of poor things at the end there, we missed some tackles, easy one-on-ones," a dejected Pay said after the match.
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"We didn't get the ball back off the kick off, had the ball stripped from Lich (hooker Michael Lichaa). It was an accumulation of things that went against us and we couldn't stop it."
Despite the result, there was "lots to like" across the 80 minutes according to Pay.
"Last week [against Newcastle] we played some really good footy and again in patches tonight we played some terrific football. We lost that game. We lost that game tonight ourselves and we've only got ourselves to blame for it," he said.
"We're building each week. We're sitting where we are (in 14th) but our football is getting better each week. I've got two kids playing in the halves and they're getting better each week.
"We've got blokes there that are less than 10 first grade games, four or five of them there. It's all about a learning curve and we learned a really harsh lesson tonight."
He agreed Martin had played "a fantastic game" and responded well after a below-par effort personally in last week's win over the Knights.
"I spoke to him about his game after last week and he wasn't happy with it, we addressed a couple of things and he's fixed them up. 24 points is pretty hard to come by for one person in the NRL," Pay said.
Pay said some of the tension had gone out of the air now that there was a bit more clarity over the club's roster and salary cap position.
"The boys are more settled. You say it doesn't affect you but I think it does," he said.