Will Genia says his Melbourne Rebels team have blown a huge opportunity to set themselves up for the Super Rugby finals with their bumbling loss to the Bulls on Friday night.
With the conference-leading Brumbies on the bye, the Rebels could have regained top spot in the Australian pool with a victory, but instead finished empty-handed at AAMI Park suffering a 32-17 defeat.
With four rounds to play, there are shades of 2018 when they looked comfortably on course for a maiden finals berth but ultimately fell just short.
"It's a huge missed opportunity," the Test halfback said.
"There's obviously expectation on us but there's greater expectation from within the group, and I think at times when the pressure comes on, we try to come up with solutions that are outside our game plan.
"When we come under pressure, we need to stick to the process and what we want to achieve."
With four matches to play, Genia said the team had the ability to turn things around and get back on course for a play-off berth.
"We get a result this week (against the Sunwolves in Tokyo) and then we can go and take on whatever comes from there."
Melbourne dominated all the statistics at AAMI Park except on the scoreboard, with the Pretoria team playing smart rugby to bank the win.
Genia said it was frustrating match for his team, who repeatedly made errors in their own attacking zone with the Bulls capitalising.
"The forwards went really well," he said.
"They matched them physically and gave us an opportunity to get in the game, but as backs we lacked a bit of execution and weren't clinical.
"We looked to push too may passes and try too many things, as opposed to just being disciplined to the way we want to play."
Many of the Rebels and Bulls players came together on the field post-match in a prayer circle, with many drawing a link to the outcome of Wallaby fullback Israel Folau's contract termination earlier in the day.
Bulls five-eighth Handre Pollard said it was initiated by the Rebels, who approached his team before kick-off.
But Genia said it wasn't a statement about Folau.
"It's not (about Folau). It's more about showing your faith about what you believe in," Genia said.
"I believe in God and the bible so it's an opportunity to get together and say a prayer."