NRL 2019: Stephen Kearney's Warriors blow 12-point lead against Rabbitohs

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney admits his side's game management in the final quarter of their 28-24 loss to the Rabbitohs was poor, and cost New Zealand a chance a victory.

With 19 minutes to go, the Warriors held a 24-12 lead over the Bunnies, but South Sydney scored three tries to steal victory from Kearney's side - who had led for the majority of the match at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

The Warriors were dealt a massive blow minutes before kickoff, with chief playmaker Blake Green injuring his groin, forcing a late backline re-shuffle.

Kearney didn't use Green's absence as an excuse for the defeat even though it was notable, especially in the final 10 minutes when the Warriors had a chance to close out the match.

"I couldn't fault the effort, but I thought we weren't that smart at the back end of sets in the second half," Kearney said.

"When we got 12 points ahead we had to manage the game more effectively. We didn't do that so well, and that was frustrating.

"I reckon we had enough occasions to manage the game properly but just failed to do so. That's the NRL, you've got to work to the final whistle. Sixty-minute efforts don't get you the win.

"I was just really disappointed for them, for all the effort and hard work that they put in, that they couldn't quite get the result."

With Green absent, Peta Hiku slotted in for a rare appearance in the halves, while rookie halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita took the reigns as the primary playmaker in just his second NRL game.

Chanel Harris-Tavita.
Chanel Harris-Tavita. Photo credit: Getty

With five minutes left and the scores even, Harris-Tavita attempted a long-range field goal wide sailed wide, and on the ensuing set, the Rabbitohs scored the match-winning try through Cody Walker - his fourth of the game.

"I'm not 100 percent sure if that was the right play, but he took it upon himself to go after it, and I will always back him for that," Kearney added.

"If you miss, it's a seven-tackle set and all of a sudden you're on your tryline trying to keep the game alive.

"There were guys around him that have played a lot more footy than him, and they're probably the ones that need to help him with managing the game a bit more effectively."

The Warriors have a busy 11 days ahead as they host the last-placed North Queensland Cowboys next Saturday, and then five days later, they face the unbeaten Storm in an annual ANZAC Day Clash in Melbourne.

Winning at least one if not both those games will be crucial for the Warriors season, with Kearney describing his side's first five games as a "mixed bag".

"We opened up with a good win at home and then had a couple of by our standards poor performances against the Tigers and Manly," Kearney said.

"Considering the circumstances losing Blake today I thought we managed quite well but weren't smart enough to finish them off.

"You've got to move on to the challenge next week."

Kearney added that Green could be fit to face the Cowboys, saying his groin injury was a minor issue and they didn't want to take any risks.

"He's your chief ballplayer, so to lose him in the warm-up before the match is always challenging.

"We'll see how he pulls up over the next couple of days and go from there."

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