Stone laments Knights’ fall from grace

Coach Rick Stone says Newcastle have forgotten how to win and admits he’s frustrated by their fall from NRL ladder leaders to cellar dwellers.

The Knights posted their sixth successive loss on Friday night, beaten 36-22 by Canberra at GIO Stadium despite the return of playmaker Jarrod Mullen and a handful of other stars.

Stone said his team played more like they were in the under-eights than the NRL in the opening 25 minutes, when they were down 24-0.

The defeat sent them to the bottom of the table, thanks to their league-worst points differential.

At the start of April, they were at the top after four back-to-back victories.

“It’s frustrating,” a dejected Stone said.

“I know injuries have had a little bit to do with where we’ve been at some stages during the year – and we’ve still got a few players out, but every team’s got a few players out when you get to this stage of the season.

“We’re down on confidence, we’re struggling to know how to win a game at the moment.”

Blake Austin’s hat-trick inside the opening 15 minutes was somewhat of a slap in the face for Newcastle, who’ve now conceded the first try in each of their past six matches.

It’s a fact Stone laments.

“The way we’ve started the last couple of games doesn’t give you confidence, that’s for sure,” he said.

Stone was a bit more optimistic about Sione Mata’utia, who was taken off after a head knock.

“I don’t think it’s anything too major, but it was probably bad enough for him not to return to the game,” he said.

“A few bumps and bruises, but I don’t think it’s too bad.”

He was also hopeful forward Tariq Sims won’t have anything to answer after being placed on report for a crusher tackle on Austin in the first half.

“It’s up for the judiciary to have a look at that, they can sort that out.”

The Knights mentor also praised Tyrone Roberts, who played his first NRL match in more than a month.

The halfback’s future is in doubt following the club’s three-year deal with Canterbury’s Trent Hodkinson from 2016.

“He showed he’s a first-grade quality player and did some really good things,” Stone said.

“He’ll get some confidence out of that and he’ll get better next week.”

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