South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett says the only real positive from his side's tough 22-16 loss to Melbourne on Friday night was the effort shown, with a huge error count costing them a chance to knock off a competition heavyweight.
Souths scored first and held a share of the lead until the 67th minute but 15 errors – most of those in the second half and many of them in their own end – gave Melbourne all the invitation they needed to do what Melbourne do.
"The opposition tonight for us was South Sydney, we put ourselves under more pressure than Melbourne did," Bennett said.
"There was a lot of effort form us, but at the end of the day a lot of errors as well which doesn't help out cause.
"I don't think we're too far behind the comp heavyweights… the effort was there but that's about where it stops."
The loss wouldn't sap the team's confidence but nor would a close loss to a top team necessarily boost it.
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"I don't think they lost a lot of confidence, what they got is a reminder about what wins," he added.
"We've been pretty good the last four or five weeks, we always knew this was going to be a tough game for us.
"It's fallen at a good time of the season, we've still got some time to get it right, still three games to go to make sure we're not beating ourselves [in the finals]."
Despite naming Alex Johnston at fullback after last week's season-ending injury to Latrell Mitchell, Bennett used Corey Allan at the back with Johnston on one wing.
No player could effectively replace Mitchell's impact and Allan was steady at the back with Bennett indicating he would stick with the 22-year-old in the role moving forward.
"Corey did a pretty good job for us … That's my plan (to keep him there)," Bennett said.