Saturday's victory for North Queensland gave some vital experience for the Cowboys' young guns and another case of close but no cigar for the Knights.
Cowboys young players learning to play NRL
The Cowboys' host of young players, Blake Leary, Kalyn Ponga, Corey Jensen and others, are gaining valuable experience early in the season, and it showed in their performance tonight with Ponga notching up two tries and the bench players having impact off the bench.
"It's easy when you're in front and have got control of the game for most of it – you don't learn your tough lessons then," coach Paul Green said. "The last two weeks they've had to feel what it's like to be under pressure and now they're starting to understand what it takes to get yourself out of it."
The coach attributed the improvement of the young players to the return of experienced heads such as Antonio Winterstein. "We had [Antonio] back tonight… and having those guys back in the team helps with those young guys to learn what it's like to be in a bit of an arm wrestle at stages," he said.
Morgan and Lowe gain confidence
Two players who have been inconsistent for the Cowboys in the previous weeks had greatly improved performances against the Knights.
Ethan Lowe had a powerhouse performance, running for 124 metres off the bench and making 29 tackles. "He's a guy who's building in confidence, for a couple of different reasons he just lacked a bit of confidence there for a while," Green said. "I thought he made a real difference tonight on both sides of the ball."
Green was also pleased with halfback Michael Morgan, who made several key plays in defence including three consecutive tackles that led to an error for the Knights and a Cowboys try.
"I thought defensively he was excellent," the coach said of Morgan. "Probably would have liked him to take a bit more charge around our last plays in particular. He's probably just a little bit in two minds at the moment in attack, we all know what he's capable of so he just needs to remember that and stop being indecisive at times and get out there and run the ball and do what he does best."
Knights close but no cigar, again
The Knights led by two points at half-time and had they scored the first try of the second stanza they may have gone on with it, but they simply dropped off to lose another game that they were in but unable to win.
Knights coach Nathan Brown is aware of the problem, but with an inexperienced team it's a difficult issue to fix.
"We certainly died at times in the game. We certainly don't play quite good enough for long enough and hence we lose lots of close games," Brown said.
He was also disappointed with the Knights' control of the football, given that they were able to make the most of the few attacking opportunities they had. "They dominated the field position in the first half… We had limited chances, we had one chance with the ball in the first half and we scored," he said.
Newcastle to build on consistency
It's becoming a sad run of losses for the Knights, with a string of games lost by close margins that more experienced teams could have taken out.
According to Brown consistency is the key word for the Knights, and he'll continue to drill the idea into the side over the course of the year.
"We do a lot of things a lot, lot better, but we don't do it for long enough periods, that's the reality of it," he said.
"We do hang in there a lot better, we do compete a lot better there's no doubt about that but we've just got to keep working hard and work on some key parts of our game."
Cowboys moving towards 80-minute effort
The Cowboys dropped out of the game after the opening 15 minutes this week, before resurging in the second half. The performance was 15 minutes better than their effort against St George Illawarra last week, when they put in a stellar second half after a poor first term.
"I thought it was a similar performance to last week, we just did it for longer this week which was important," Green said.
"We defended well… In the second half we were a lot better and then when we were tested down on our line we managed to defend it which we didn't do in our first half."