"It was probably the most disappointed I've been for a long time."
It was the closest the Newcastle Knights have been to a win in a month but Knights coach Nathan Brown was most displeased by his side's 30-18 loss to the Dragons on Saturday afternoon.
Floggings at the hands of North Queensland and the Warriors in their past two games were looked back on more favourably by Brown following the Dragons loss, after the Red V blew Newcastle off the park in the first half.
The Dragons scored five tries and made eight line breaks in the first 40, with only St George Illawarra skipper Gareth Widdop's poor goal kicking denying his side an even larger deficit than the 22-6 half-time scoreline.
The Dragons peppered a Knights left edge that included relatively new recruits Brendan Elliot and Mitchell Barnett as well as 18-year-old playmaker Jack Cogger.
Brown wasn't prepared to single out any one individual though, blasting his side's poor first half which allowed the Dragons to score the most points they have in a game in 2016.
"The Dragons are more known for their defensive capabilities, hanging in contests and grinding out wins so I'm more disappointed than I have been in previous weeks," Brown said post-game.
"That may seem strange to people because obviously the Cowboys and Warriors did a fair job on us but our contact around the ruck wasn't great.
"When that wasn't going so well, our left edge – 'Barney' and 'Cogs' (Barnett and Cogger) – their decision making to start the game wasn't great but that comes down to our middles doing a better job too. It wasn't a good start to the game."
Tries to Sione Mata'utia and Barnett in the second half saw the Knights outscore the Red V 12-8 in the second half but that wasn't a sanctuary Brown was prepared to hide in following the Knights' 12-point loss – their ninth-straight defeat.
"We can't feel good about the fact we outscored them in the second half and had a decent 40 minutes. It shouldn't make us feel good about ourselves after what we dished up in the first half," he said.
"The Dragons aren't known for their second half scoring ability are they? And while we did do some good things, our first half wasn't up to the level we would've liked. We shouldn't feel like we got anything out of the game."
Knights co-captain Trent Hodkinson went as far to say it was a step backwards for his side.
"Collectively we shot ourselves in the foot right from the word go. When we did get the opportunity to build up some pressure, our fifth tackle options were pretty poor which I put my hand up for," Hodkinson said.
"It was a combination of things and I think we made the Dragons look better than what they actually were."
Hodkinson also confirmed he'd been approached by England coach Wayne Bennett to feature for the northern hemisphere powerhouse at the season-ending Four Nations tournament, but wasn't very forthcoming in regards to his potential selection.
"I've spoken to Wayne, yeah, but we'll have to wait and see," Hodkinson said. "That's all I'm going to say at the moment."