Knights refuse to hit NRL panic button

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is blocking out the alarm bells ringing in his ears and has promised to stay the course despite his side’s second thrashing in as many weeks.

The Knights’ limp opening to the NRL season continued as they were blown off the park in their 48-6 mauling at the hands of a rampaging South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

After being comprehensively beaten 30-12 by the lightly-rated Gold Coast last week, the men from the Hunter looked a class or two below the Rabbitohs in what’s been a concerning opening two rounds.

For the first 40 minutes the Knights repeatedly shot themselves in the foot through penalties and cheap turnovers, while the Rabbitohs’ little men made a mockery of their middle third defence.

They have now lost 18 of their past 22 and have let in 30 points or more in 10 of their past 11 losses.

While Brown, two games into his tenure, won’t likely find his job under pressure anytime soon, his decisions at the selection table will certainly come under scrutiny over the next few weeks.

Kade Snowden, although quiet against the Titans, was controversially dropped while Brown relegated former international winger Sione Mata’utia to under-20s.

The side was already missing experienced forwards Pauli Pauli (suspension), Jack Stockwell (shoulder) and Mickey Paea (knee) and fielded a side featuring six players who had played just one NRL game.

Brown revealed he was undecided on whether Snowden had done enough to earn a recall however Pauli, Paea, Stockwell and Mata’utia would all be welcomed back against Canberra next Saturday.

He defended his decision to play the likes of Jaelen Feeney, Jacob and Daniel Saifiti, David Bhana and Lachlan Fitzgibbon ahead of more experienced players and was adamant they were building to a better and brighter future.

“There’s no doubt we’re missing some experience but we’ve also got to picture a team in two year’s time,” Brown said.

“You’ve got to get these young blokes playing and we saw some young blokes today who came up against a very good team.

“(The Rabbitohs) didn’t just do this to us, they did the same to the Roosters last week who were quite a decent outfit even though they have one or two players out injured.”

Co-captain Trent Hodkinson admitted the side had learnt a hard lesson after being blown off the park early as the Rabbitohs skipped out to an 18-0 lead after 23 minutes.

“I think if we’re trailing early we’ve got to get that fight into us, know that we can come back from 14 points down or 18 points down,” Hodkinson said.

“I know we’ll improve and that’s the challenge we’ve got here.”

Brown said the club expected to know the full extent of Akuila Uate’s shoulder injury over the next few days while Bhana suffered an ankle sprain and could miss several weeks.

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