A shattered Cameron Smith has claimed responsibility for costing his Melbourne side a vital win over the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night and potentially a place in the NRL finals.
The Storm were in control of the game for more than an hour at Allianz Stadium and looked well placed to score an impressive victory over the defending premiers.
But with 15 minutes of the game remaining, and his side leading 12-8, the Queensland and Test skipper uncharacteristically threw a poor pass that eluded Sisa Waqa and Mitchell Pearce picked up the loose ball to score under the posts.
It proved to be the turning point as the Roosters ran in two more late four-pointers to complete an unlikely 24-12 win.
The defeat means the Storm now have to beat Brisbane at AAMI Park next Friday to guarantee their place in the finals.
Anthony Griffin’s Broncos face a similar scenario with a win ensuring they’ll finish in the top-eight in what’s shaping up as an enthralling final round of the regular season.
“We made errors at crucial times and I made one of them,” Smith said.
“It handed a try on a plate to the Roosters and you can’t do that to good teams. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile off you.
“It’s a big game for us next week. The Broncos are playing for their season and the way we played tonight we might be as well.
“If results don’t go our way we might not even be in the finals.”
The Storm were impressive for long spells with Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater both showing their class as the Roosters fought hard to stay in the game with some desperate defending.
But coach Craig Bellamy said the team had been taught a valuable lesson from the defeat and had to learn from it fast or risk missing out on the finals for the first time since since 2010 – the year they were punished for serious salary-cap breaches.
“There was a lot of real positives, but we are disappointed,” Bellamy said.
“We need to pick ourselves up get on with preparation for next week.
“In the final minutes we made more mistakes than we did in the whole game.
“I think if we get in their (the top eight) we’ll fight hard.
“But there are a lot of good signs there and hopefully we can get there and perform well.”