The Thunderbolts have fallen 36-28 to the New Zealand Warriors under-20s in their Round 8 clash at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday.
Three late tries wasn't enough for the fast-finishing Thunderbolts, who allowed the Warriors to establish a 24-point lead with 15 minutes left on the clock.
A howling southerly breeze aided the Warriors in the first half, but it was the Thunderbolts who opened the scoring in the 12th minute after a strong bust by halfback Brodie Croft enabled winger Angelo Leaupepe to score from the subsequent play.
Back-to-back sets allowed the Warriors to post their first points at the 20-minute mark with an unconverted try to Koli Oneone, before the Kiwis piled on a further three tries to open up a 24-6 half-time lead.
It didn’t take long for the Thunderbolts to take advantage of the stiff breeze in the second stanza, with a 40/20 kick leading to Jaiyden Hunt's try.
Trailing by 12 points the Thunderbolts lacked the necessary field position and possession in order to mount a decent challenge.
The 'Bolts struggled to get a foot in the game and their task soon became much tougher when the visitors scored three unanswered tries inside 10 minutes to lead 36-12 in the 65th minute.
Despite the deficit Melbourne refused to throw in the towel and detected a glimmer of hope when Scott Drinkwater slipped through the Warriors' defensive line to take the score to 36-18 with 11 minutes to go.
Six minutes later a bust by hooker Sam Burns was backed up by Croft who scored under the sticks to leave the home side needing a further two converted tries to reach parity on the scoreboard.
Cory Parker scored directly from a line drop-out inside the final minute, but with the wind playing havoc, Jesse Arthars' conversion attempt was waved away to end any hope the Thunderbolts had of snatching an unlikely draw.
The eight-point loss was the Thunderbolts' sixth of the season and another case of what might have been for Eric Smith's men.
"We never gave ourselves a chance in that game with our defending through the middle," Smith said.
"For the first 20 minutes we were pretty good and that's when the score was still 6-nil."
The Thunderbolts have lost four games by eight points or less so far this season, a statistic Smith is hoping his side will turn around when the faced the Titans next Sunday.
"This season we've been consistently close – it's not the type of consistency we're after – we've been close in a number of games without getting the result," he said.
"We know we're playing nowhere near our best football. In all those games we've been close but haven’t been playing to our potential which is the most disappointing thing."
Warriors U20s 36 (Koli Oneone 2, Erin Clark 2, Marata Ninkore, Lewis Soosemea, Kane Telea tries; Telea 4 goals) defeated Melbourne Thunderbolts 28 (Angelo Leaupepe, Jaiyden Hunt, Scott Drinkwater, Brodie Croft, Cory Parker tries; Jesse Arthars 4 goals) at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Half-time: U20 Warriors 24-6.