NRL: Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown on contrasting halves against Gold Coast Titans

Half good, half bad for Knights DISAPPOINTED: Newcastle Knights halfback Jaelen Feeney (right) after the Gold Coast Titans scored one of their seven tries at home on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images
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Weight of possession and comical errors.

They were the main points addressed by Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown on Saturday after his last-placed NRL team slumped to a seventh straight loss, going down 38-8 to theGold Coast Titans.

The visitors led 8-6 at the break but were kept scoreless in the second half as the Titans piled on 32unanswered points in front of 10,511 spectators at Cbus Super Stadium.

And Brown said much of that momentum swing came down to not having the ball and giving it upcheaply –with the Knights holding just 37 per cent possession, making 109 more tackles and having 15 less completed sets of six.

“What the guys will get to see [on the video] will be some mistakes they made in the secondhalf that were quite comical,” Brown said.

“One or two of the tries they see, guys will thinkif Ijust did myjob here, which isn’t a lot what they needed to do but very basic, what effect it would’ve had on the score board.

“They’llalso see in the first half, doing exactly the same thingvery well, what effect that has on the team and the scoreboard.

“And that’s the challenge for us, is being able to do things wellfor long periods, and generally, which is only commonsense, the longer wedo it for the closer we’re in contests.

“But when we have those weights of possession against us inboth first half second half, we’re not in position at the moment to compete. We handle it for the first half, but in the second half they burnus bad.”

Knightsskipper Sione Mata’utia, who left the field fora head injury assessment [HIA], said when he returned down20-8 just inside the final quarter he felt the game was still in the balance.

“When I came back on after I passed the HIA, I thought we could come back,” Mata’utia said.

“But then we leaked a few more tries and after that point it was about finishing strong, showing pride in the jersey and trying to get the most out of the time left.”

The round nine fixture started with such promise, Matat’utia saving a try at one end before fellow second-rowerSam Stone scored from a repeat set down the other.

Five-eighth Brock Lamb added the extras and a penalty goal in soon after, on the back ofa 50 metrebreak in midfield from prop Daniel Saifiti, and the Knights led 8-0 followingan impressive opening 20 minutes.

But for the next hour the Titans scored all the points, slowly wrestledcontrol and eventually ranaway with it, including doubles to new Gold Coast centre pairing Jarryd Hayne and Konrad Hurrell.

Brown also namedlate changes for Newcastlebefore kick-off, including Josh King starting for the first time this seasonafter12 appearances last year while Luke Yates shifted back to the bench and Anthony Tupou missed out.

“Joshhas beenin reserve grade, he’s been back there for a fair period and been playing really well,” Brown said.

“Toops was desperate to come to theclub and offer his experience, but it means he plays some weeks and other weeks he gets overlooked in favour of younger kids. He understands his role.

“So it’snot a form thing for Toops, it’s just Josh deserves to play and so does Stoney and Yatesy.”

As for recently dropped captain Trent Hodkinson, who was part of a 42-26 loss to Wests Tigers in NSW Cupon Saturday, it would be the same situationas everyone else according to Brown.

“Trent played today in reserve grade at a similar time to usso I’mnot sure how he played and couldn’t answer that,” Brown said.

“He will be judged on his performance as all players are.”

The main injury concern for Newcastle was recalled halfback Jaelen Feeney, who was taken to hospital after full-time for precautionary scans on his ribs following a crunching tackle from Hurrell leading to a try in the 73rdminute.

“There’s a few knocks but we’re not seeing anything that concerns us long term, Idon’t think,” Brown said.

Brown said the upcoming bye had arrived at an ideal timefor the Knights, who have recorded just one win in 2017,and gavethe squad a chance to freshen up before hosting Canberra at McDonald Jones Stadium on May 14.

“It’s good for us andgives guys time off to recover,” he said.

“We’ll train parts of the week, have the weekend off to freshen up and then come backinto the Canberra game at home on a Sunday afternoon.

“As we showed today in the first half we are more than capable, we just need to do things a little bit better andfor a little bit longer.”

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