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Stephen Kearney laments Warriors' late collapse against Bunnies - 'You can't invite them back into the contest'

Stephen Kearney says the Warriors' late game management was the key issue to why they blew a 12-point lead in their loss to the Rabbitohs yesterday.

The Warriors led 24-12 with 19 minutes left against the Bunnies at Sunshine Coast Stadium but South Sydney stunned the Kiwi side with three late tries to steal a 28-24 win.

The Warriors coach said the Warriors lost control of the game when it mattered the most.

"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."

A reason the side could've struggled with game management late may have to do with the absence of veteran playmaker Blake Green, who was scratched from the line-up just prior to the match with a groin injury.

The withdrawal saw Peta Hiku make a rare appearance in the halves alongside rookie halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita who had to take over play making responsibilities in just his second NRL match.

But the 20-year-old didn't back down from the challenge, attempting to win the game with the scores even and five minutes left with a long-range field goal.

Unfortunately, it sailed wide and the Rabbitohs scored the game-winning try with the following set. 

Kearney didn't put the loss on that decision.

"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 six days to work on the issues before they host the last-placed Cowboys next Saturday.