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Knights' halves keen to make amends

Knights halfback Jaelen Feeney admits the side are still coming to terms with how they let slip an 18-point advantage over the St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday and understands he and halves partner Brock Lamb need to get better. 

‌Feeney was criticised by coach Nathan Brown post-game after the side tried to play a conservative brand of football in the second half to hold onto the three-try lead. 

Newcastle's last-play tactics have varied in 2017 with the side deliberately kicking to the sidelines against the Raiders and Sea Eagles to nullify the strong carry returns from representative backs Jordan Rapana and Tom Trbojevic, before chancing their hand against the more structured outfits.

While the 30-minute onslaught in the first half against the Dragons brought upon arguably the best patch of football for the side in two years, their one-win and seven-loss record after leading at the break in 2017 is the major concern. 

"There is obviously a down-buzz in the group, we know we let that win slip and we're disappointed and should be," Feeney said.

"I don't think we can put it down to one thing, we just let the Dragons [get on a] roll too much and their offloads definitely cost us and we couldn't stop the roll once they started.

"If we could've just stopped their momentum a bit earlier then we probably could have scraped away with a win at the end."

It has been well documented the Knights are lacking experience – their entire forward pack on the weekend averaged just 33.2 games per player.

Only Dane Gagai (126 games) has played over the century mark but after performing strongly in Origin II, he too was targeted down the right edge and came up with eight missed tackles.

Former Knights halfback and captain Trent Hodkinson remains in the Intrust Super Premiership.

"Experience is always handy at the end of the day and helps in the big moments. I wouldn't put [the loss] down to our youth, but definitely experience would help," Feeney said.

"Being a half with 'Lamby' (Brock Lamb) I think we could've put some more points on them but we chose to try and hold onto that lead. With that is a learning curve and I'm very disappointed with how we lost and handled that second half.

"A game is never over until it's over; I think instead of holding onto the lead, we should have tried to make that lead bigger."

The Knights have conceded 40 tries in their second halves this season – the most of any other side, however the Wests Tigers (39) are behind them with both sides to clash on Sunday for the chance to get off the bottom of the Telstra Premiership ladder. 

Ultimately, it will come down to who is prepared to take out the second half. 

"We got them in this round last year and I think we can do the same again," Feeney said.

"They have a quality outfit with some good players but we need to build on what we did well on the weekend and put in a solid 80-minute performance.

"We know we can put points on, we just need to defend the lead and play that same style of footy in the second half."

Newcastle's advantage is they'll play in their own backyard and a venue they traditionally perform stronger at - winning all three games in the past two seasons at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Knights have also won five of their last seven against Ivan Cleary's side and return home for the first time in six weeks after a tough run on the road in between byes.

"We haven't been at home in a while and the fans always do turn up," Feeney said.

"When they get behind us, we play a lot better football and I’m thankful they are there every home game."


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