Ricky Stuart has declared the Canberra Raiders are guilty of "trying to take the easy option rather than getting in the gutter" and fighting their way out of trouble.
Stuart is adamant the Raiders are "still in the fight" - their standing in third on the NRL ladder says so - but his troops must learn to adjust or risk finding themselves on the canvas.
The Raiders dropped their second home game on the trot in an 18-14 loss to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in a match marred by a mammoth penalty count at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
Whistleblowers Ash Klein and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski blew 26 penalties - and it was one decision that would ultimately turn the contest on its head during the second half.
Raiders centre Joey Leilua dropped his knees into Manly winger Reuben Garrick after he scored a try, handing the visitors an eight-point attempt and an ultimately unassailable lead.
"It's justified. I've spoken to BJ and I do think it was justified," Stuart said of the penalty that ultimately put Manly in front.
MORE RAIDERS NEWS
"It's something that stays with us, but we're a good enough team to get back from that but we didn't. We didn't because we wanted to play individually more so than as a group.
"Let's hope we learn from it and move on. We're still in the fight.
"We've got to go and hear about it, we've got to go and see it now. We have to make a decision if we want to improve on it.
"That's my job with the preparations going forward with the next couple of games and into the semi-finals."
The influence of the whistleblowers reduced the fact Manly have now blown the top four race wide open to a mere sidenote.
So too the fact the 20,265-strong crowd is Canberra's biggest for a regular season game since 2010.
So too the fears Manly forward Joel Thompson has suffered a broken arm which could spell the end of his season.
Canberra conceded 11 penalties to Manly's 15 - but what matters most to Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler is a place in the top four.
Manly have now moved to 30 points - level with the third-placed Raiders and fifth-placed South Sydney. All that separates the three sides is points differential.
It makes Canberra's looming road trip to Cronulla to face the Sharks a vital one - and the hosts will be desperate to rise to the occasion in Paul Gallen's final home game.
But first for Stuart is simply looking after his own backyard.
"I don't want to be blaming penalties. When we played to how we spoke about playing, we were very good. There wasn't enough parts of the game there where we stuck to it," Stuart said.
"When you take it into your own hands ... it makes it harder for yourself."
For so long the boot of Raiders captain Jarrod Croker looked as though it would get the job done.
He etched his name onto the scoresheet with two tries and three goals in a match to be Canberra's lone point scorer.
Much like Manly winger Reuben Garrick's input for the visitors, at least until Jake Trbojevic crossed with 12 minutes remaining.
That final Trbojevic try would prove the difference as Canberra were held at bay - however marginally - on the final play of the game.
"We were in the game right up until the last moment. There's games where we just make it easier at times for opposition," Stuart said.
"That was a tough win for those guys, they had five interchanges in the first half, forwards playing in the centres and front-rowers in the back-row.
"We did everything we possibly could at times in that game to help them out."
Even the late sin-binning of Morgan Boyle wouldn't stop the Sea Eagles, who were already down to two on the bench without Thompson and Moses Suli (high ankle sprain).
AT A GLANCE
NRL round 23: MANLY WARRINGAH SEA-EAGLES 18 (Reuben Garrick, Jake Trbojevic tries; Reuben Garrick 5 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 14 (Jarrod Croker 2 tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Crowd: 20,265.