Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has supported referee Dave Munro's decision to sin-bin Knights skipper Trent Hodkinson at a crucial juncture of the team's fiery 24-18 loss to the Rabbitohs at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The incident came as the Knights lost a scrum against the feed while trailing 22-12 with 10 minutes to play and the frustrated Knights skipper, believing the referees had not policed the scrum effectively, told Munro he had cost Newcastle the game.
Brown backed the referees' decision following the out-of-character outburst from the famously calm Knights captain and instead blamed his own team's lack of execution combined with some fundamental errors for costing them victory in a winnable game.
"If Trent spoke to the referee in the wrong manner I've got no issue with what happened [the sin-bin], no issue at all if he hasn't addressed the referee with the respect the referee should be," Brown said in his post-match press conference.
"Our discipline has been great this year which has been pleasing but if he has said the wrong thing he got what should happen."
Brown said until he was able to review what was said he wasn't sure if Hodkinson would face further sanctions but was hopeful the sin-bin would be sufficient.
The Knights – who notched just one win in 2016 – now have one win and two losses to start 2017 but competed valiantly in both losses: an agonisingly close 26-22 defeat in New Zealand in Round 1 and the six-point defeat to perpetual tormenters South Sydney on Saturday.
"I don't think there's going to be anyone that watched the game that's going to question the commitment of the guys - our effort was very, very good," Brown said.
"South Sydney [the past few years] have absolutely beat the tripe out of us and scored a mile of points but [Saturday] they beat us because they were just a little bit more professional, that's all."
In addition to losing a scrum against the feed, Brown also noted the vital second-half kick-off, which saw rookie half Brock Lamb catch the ball with his toes up against the dead ball line and concede a goal line drop out, rather than let the ball sail dead to earn a penalty from half way. The pivotal mistake allowed Souths to score an early second half try and reclaim the lead when they should have been defending their own line.
"The kick-off, that should have been us putting the ball into touch with the wind and attacking their line and that was a huge play in the game. It was something we didn't control well," Brown said.
"[Winger] Kenny Sio probably should have scored three or four tries. We didn't find him. He was there and the most basic play was there for him to be found on numbers of occasions.
"South Sydney would be saying 'geez these boys are definitely moving forward' but they'd also be saying 'they make it tough for themselves'. If we'd been together a little bit longer maybe we could have pinched a win but it's a game that if we'd controlled things better we certainly could have done a little bit better."
Knights forward Jamie Buhrer – arguably his team's best on the day – also lamented the missed opportunities in attack. He himself failed to find a pass in open space on one occasion that would almost certainly have led to points, while a misfired short-side pass from dummy-half from Dane Gagai went behind Sio and also could have led to points.
"As Browny said we left a few tries out on the field," Buhrer said.
"Down that right edge we left a couple there. They're things that are frustrating. Obviously there's some positives to come from it. We don't want to just be known as a competitive unit, we want to win games.
"There's a lot of disappointed boys in there at the moment. "