Anthony Daly and Seánie McGrath said a lack of leadership cost Waterford a place in the All-Ireland SHC final on Sunday - but added that the Déise have a golden chance of slaying the Cats in six days' time if they simply believe in themselves.
Walter Walsh and Conor Fogarty struck at the death to rescue Kilkenny, keeping the back-to-back All-Ireland champions just about on track for a three-in-a-row.
Waterford were superb throughout but wobbled at the climax of a brilliant battle to let their opponents off the hook.
"There were instances in the game where they could have been more clinical and they weren't," former Cork corner-forward McGrath said on The Sunday Game.
"Believe in yourself, express yourself again next week." - Anthony Daly
"It's disappointing because with a bit more composure there they could have seen the game out. In my time the likes of Brian Corcoran was a great leader. You need leaders, the Brick Walshes and Kevin Morans stepping up.
"It's all to play for. Waterford have a great chance. They just need to show a little bit more composure in that last 10-minute period."
Clareman Daly agreed with assessment, and highlighted the Déise naivety that cost them dear.
"I wouldn't blame management," he said. "People say they reverted to the sweeper, it's an easy old comment to make. They didn't, they went looking for the finish line.
"They retreated that little bit and invited Kilkenny on to them and that's the danger. It's on-field management. What can Derek and Dan do there? It's very hard to get everyone up the field. You need fellas to hold their shape.
"If Waterford can get their heads around that they're as good a team in this six days they have a great chance again. Thurles is like a home ground for them, they love it.
"I think they've a great chance if they get their head around it and really believe, 'we are that good'. Believe in yourself, express yourself again next week."