Forward pass call costly for Knights

It was the call right after half-time that Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown believes was the turning point in the side's 30-20 loss to the Penrith Panthers on Sunday. 

Knights halfback Jaelen Feeney had found some open space immediately after the break and threw inside for Brock Lamb, but referee David Munro ruled the pass forward.

After a dominant 14-0 display in the opening half, the Novocastrians fell away on the back of a high error rate in the second term and further 50-50 calls going the visitors' way throughout the remainder of the game.

Penrith took full advantage to pile on five tries in 25 minutes with strong performances from Australian representatives Trent Merrin, James Tamou and Matt Moylan ensuring the visitors clinched a 10-point win heading into their first bye week.

‌Brown was adamant the call on Feeney's pass was a factor in the result and also highlighted the strip call against returning lock Mitch Barnett when Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak lost possession close to his own line before the break.

"The call before half-time with the strip was poor," Brown said post-game.

"We had forced the issue there and that was a loose carry.

"Then after half-time we make a line break and that was not a forward pass.

"The referees have responded to the media this week where everyone has been having a crack at forward passes. That was a bad, bad call. We never had the ball then for 20 minutes. 

"I’m not trying to make excuses but that was a bad call and had a big impact on the game."

The positive to come out of the clash for the Knights was the first 40 minutes when the team picked up where they left off against the Canberra Raiders.  

It was the first time the Knights had held their opposition scoreless in an opening half of football since Round 10, 2014.

"To come in 14-0 up was really pleasing and we turned them away from our line a few times and attacked quite well," Brown said.

"Then we fell into that period of the game where under huge amounts of a lack of possession and fatigue we lost our way. 

"That is where we are as a team. 

"If we had gone 50-50 [with possession in the second half] we would have won that game and I think Penrith would agree to that. 

"I was just disappointed that we didn't find a way to complete one or two good-ball sets, stick to the plan which worked so well in the first half and regain some sort of momentum."

Brown confirmed the Knights had a number of injury concerns to come out of the clash with Josh Starling failing to take the field after succumbing to a wrist injury in warm-up, while Jack Stockwell (shoulder) and Luke Yates (concussion) will be monitored in the club's first bye week.

Despite a promising fortnight, Brown believes the bye week has come at the right time.

"It's good for us and gives all our players an opportunity to rest up and get some good training days into them," he said.

"This period last year was by far where we got our most improvement and with what we've seen the last two weeks there has been a lot of good stuff so we can certainly see some more improvements in this block where we get some byes and long turnarounds."