Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson dismissed suggestions his side was a spent force in the Telstra Premiership after being thumped 46-0 by reigning premiers Melbourne at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday night.
The eight-try lesson from the reigning premiers followed hot on the heels of a 38-12 loss to second-placed Penrith at their previous start and was the Roosters' third loss from their past five games.
It left the 2018 and 2019 champions in fifth position on 20 points – four adrift of the fourth-placed Rabbitohs and eight behind the pace-setting Storm – but Robinson stressed that the Roosters would keep holding their gloves up.
"You always believe in yourself. No-one can ask us to stop believing in ourselves because the competition's not over," Robinson told reporters after the game.
"I should be saying something different but you have to believe in yourself.
"You have to believe in your ability to change things in your favour, and we will, but that's not hiding from the fact that we've been well beaten in the last two games as well, by the top two teams and rightly so. But the game's not over."
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Robinson was pleased with the Roosters' intensity and effort early on, but they could not match Melbourne's physicality, speed or smarts over 80 minutes "and we got what we deserved".
"We were quite physical, then we were quite passive the longer the half went, and the game shifted very quickly from a balanced game to an imbalanced game," he said.
"We're all at fault there. You don't have a performance like that and not shine the torch on yourself, so that's on us.
"We started the game really well, really competitive, and it was that real arm-wrestle there and it got quite fast for both teams… then we got out-smarted a lot of times tonight and we weren't strong enough in handling the swing of the momentum and being able to calm ourselves…
"On the opposite side, we played an opposition that is balanced really well between playing a really tough style then having smarts that when they see something that their opposition's not doing, they'll exploit it, and they did that on many occasions.
"So it's a real credit to the way that they're playing."
Acknowledging the Storm and the Panthers were the benchmark teams at this stage of the title race, Robinson would not write off his own team's chances of challenging them later in the year.
"They're both the top two teams at the moment and they've both got different attributes, and they're doing it in a canter at the moment, both of them," he said.
"But there's nine games for us to go and you just believe in where you can get to."
Though they were still adjusting to the retirement of team leaders Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Brett Morris, and the absence of other key players to injury or suspension, Robinson said the Roosters were experienced and talented enough to offer more resistance than they did against the Storm.
Match Highlights: Roosters v Storm
He said there was enough time left in the season to regroup and remain in the hunt for the top four, and that challenge would continue in their next game against the Bulldogs on July 10. That game is scheduled for Bankwest Stadium but could yet be moved to a regional venue.
"It's quieter than what it normally is, but that's on us. We've got enough senior players there, we've got enough games there that they need to stand up and fill that void," Robinson said.
"You've got to learn quickly when you're not expecting those guys not to be there, but we have to fill that void and it's OK in games.
"If you want to have a good season, you'll fill that void, but if you want to mix it with the top few teams, if you want to get into the top four, you'd better adapt quickly and we just haven't done that enough. But we will."
Robinson dismissed speculation middle forward Isaac Liu had told teammates on Thursday that he would be leaving the Roosters at the end of the season to take up a three-year deal at the Titans.
"No, I don't think you'd tell teammates on game day," the coach said.
"Again, that's private stuff that will come out at the right time."