Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown lamented his side's inability to stop Penrith's lethal go-forward around the ruck during their loss to the Panthers on Friday night.
After suffering two six-point losses to begin the season, the Knights were man-handled by the Panthers with 10 of Penrith's 13 starters running for at least 100 metres.
To compound the yardage made up-field, the Knights had to make do with only 38 per cent of possession and were forced to make 162 more tackles than their opponents, missing 39 in their arguably their worst effort of the season after three improved performances to begin the year.
Despite being on the wrong end of a heavy 40-0 defeat, Brown denied it was a case of three steps forward and one step back for his side.
"I don't look at it as going back, it was a good lesson for us," Brown said.
"From a physical point of view our defence around the ruck, which has been good the first three games, was poor.
"A good example is obviously Matt Moylan – he is an outstanding player skill-wise but he's not a big guy. There were four or five occasions where he was just standing in tackles.
"Then we've got their halves playing the ball within two seconds on our try-line.
"Their outside backs were running past four or five defenders before getting tackled.
"We let ourselves down in key parts of the game."
Brown remained optimistic about where his team was headed despite the result, drawing comparisons to the Panthers' rebuild phase three years ago.
"People have got to remember that Ivan Cleary started at this club doing the exact same job that I'm one year into at the minute," Brown said.
"Penrith aren't the premiership favourites for nothing, they got us today when they were far more committed in the middle of the field and if you don't get over the advantage line there are skillful players who can show.
"We've played in three games where we could have won all three or lost all three but we give ourselves a chance because we did that part of the game.
"Tonight we didn't do that part well and it's a great lesson for us all."
One player Brown was happy to give a pass mark to was Huddersfield recruit Joe Wardle after the Scottish international became just the fourth English player in the club's history to take to the field for the Knights in the Telstra Premiership.
"I thought Joe was pretty good considering the limited preparation he's had," Brown said.
"He'll tell you himself the game is a bit quicker and I'm sure he's worked that out already.
"I thought he was one of our better players.
"I would have much preferred a high number of solid contributors but we're a team where we need to turn up every week and compete hard or we will get what we got tonight.
"Last year was by far the worst of it but we've still got a long way to go as tonight's shown."
Skipper Trent Hodkinson echoed the thoughts of Brown after the halfback struggled to build anything behind a pack that was dominated by the Panthers' big men.
"It just felt like we were continually on the back foot," Hodkinson said.
"We just needed to get back to set-for-set with the Panthers and get into a grind so I just said that to the boys [during the game].
"It was tough, the Panthers rolled right through us tonight."