Rookie errors hurt us tonight: Brown
Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown was left to lament what could have been after his side let a first half lead slip to fall 22-12 to the resurgent Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Newcastle were by far the better side for the opening 39 minutes and should have gone to the sheds with a healthy lead, only to shoot themselves in the foot in the shadows of half-time to allow the Bulldogs to get back into the contest.
For the second week in a row, Brown's troops found themselves trailing 18-6 against experienced opposition, only to fight their way back into the arm wrestle to set up a grandstand finish.
A try to Dane Gagai cut the gap to six points before the Knights had a pair of four-pointers correctly turned down by the Bunker to spoil any hopes of sending the game into extra-time.
A lot of the focus after the game was on the decision to deny tries to Gagai and Sione Mata'utia, but Brown said the real reason his side lost was rookie mistakes in the key moments.
"At the end of the day, my biggest concern is what we can do better," Brown said.
"It was great to have all of our senior players on the one day perform at a level that I would like them to.
"Our younger players – everyone would agree – they've improved out of sight, but in key moments of the game today, a lot of them came up with some really crucial plays that had an impact on us losing the game."
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Knights was Canterbury's ability to absorb pressure and turn that into points on the counter-attack.
The Bulldogs scored two of their tries from that situation, with momentum swinging their way on the stroke of half-time when Brenko Lee scored 60 seconds after Knights five-eighth Brock Lamb butchered a try by not passing to an unmarked Ken Sio.
"Our response when we have a flat bit can certainly improve a bit," Brown said.
"That first half, our defensive part of the game on the goal line was great and we probably should have led 16-0.
"We dropped it over the line and the error with a minute to go before half-time… to then start the second half with a missed tackle for them to score had a huge impact on the game. A lot gets missed on what happened in between."
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said there was a lot to like about the Knights who pushed his side up until the final whistle.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit. They're gutsy and they hang in there and they make you fight every step out of the way," he said.
"The Novocastrian supporters over here should be very proud of their side tonight."