SAM Burgess let the ball slip through his fingers at a vital stage of the game as South Sydney, featuring Nowra-born Cody Walker, slipped from the top of the NRL ladder after losing to bitter rivals the Sydney Roosters 18-14 in a Friday night thriller.
The one thing that is certain about these two old foes is they will both push deep into September.
Souths had cut an eight-point deficit to four points in the second half when Braidon Burns threw the ball behind him for Hymel Hunt to score in the corner. But just as Souths came steaming home, Burgess failed to take a simple pass near the Roosters line.
The powerhouse Englishman did not have the happiest night with his hands.
"I couldn't hold the thing, it was a tough night, pretty disappointing, but that's football. I'll practise harder and come back better next week,'' Burgess said.
"We let them off the hook a few times with late penalties and errors at crucial times. We'll re-set, not get too down on ourselves ... we just hurt ourselves at crucial times.''
Souths enjoyed most of the possession and good field position, but the Roosters defence held up brilliantly, like it has all season.
It took some Burns magic to put Hunt over, while Adam Reynolds got lucky when a grubber bounced off his chest to score a first-half try.
The Roosters scored from their first attacking set when Victor Radley somehow kept his right hand on the ball and squeezed out an offload for James Tedesco.
Referee Gerard Sutton was so stunned by Radley's handling, he took an eternity to figure out what he wanted the Bunker to look at.
The Roosters' only other try came against the run of play in the 53rd minute when Boyd Cordner stuck out his boot to stop a Reynolds grubber. He chased hard after the ball and then passed it off the ground for Latrell Mitchell.
The next play, Blake Ferguson drifted across field and sent Joey Manu on his way. Manu was confident enough to stiffen his body and fall over the line to add some fair, which was appreciated by a section of the Roosters fans amongst the 26,331 ANZ Stadium crowd.
Only Melbourne can leapfrog the Roosters at the top of the ladder should they defeat Cronulla at home on Sunday afternoon.
It was the Chooks' fifth straight win.
Coach Trent Robinson said: "Our performance wasn't bad, our defence was very good. I haven't been happy with that the last month, but it was much improved tonight.
"The attack was a bit scratchy, it was a stop-start game, penalty goals came into it because of the tightness of the game. It lacked a bit of the flow.
"We're where we want to be. We probably would have liked to have been there earlier in the season, but ... we're getting better.''
Souths will remain in the top four and need to bounce back against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium next Thursday.
The club had planned to ease Greg Inglis back from a broken thumb, but those plans could be put on ice another week, despite Alex Johnston breaking down with a hamstring injury in the second minute.
"Greg visited the surgeon yesterday [Thursday] and potentially he may miss another week,'' Souths coach Anthony Seibold said.
"We certainly won't risk him. We've got ourselves in a really good position, and if the surgeon thinks he needs another week, that's what we'll do.''
Roosters No.1 Tedesco also had an early exit due to concussion.
Both teams were put plenty into their tackles, especially Dylan Napa, whose battle with the Burgess boys was another early highlight.
Seibold said the kicking game was one area his side needed to improve.