Knights discover the beauty of winning ugly
They've had better performances this season but for just the third time in 2017 the Knights managed to find a way to win as they downed the Dragons 21-14 in front of another bumper crowd in the Hunter.
As they've done all season, the Knights jumped out to an early lead only to have the Dragons level things up midway through the second half. But unlike previous weeks, Newcastle refused to back down as they scored the final seven points of the afternoon against a side that needed the win more than they did.
It wasn't always pretty – they missed 64 tackles and had eight errors – but they got the job done, and according to their coach Nathan Brown that's all that matters.
"You look at the Broncos game and the Canterbury game – our last two games – we probably played far better," Brown said.
"If I'm honest, I thought we were a fair way off in some areas today. We had a lot more one-on-one misses, the finishes to our sets [weren't great], there were probably four or five times where they went 50 or 60 metres [off our kicks] but what we did was we found a way to stop them and found a way to win.
"I'd rather win a game like that than win with free-flowing beautiful football because for the younger guys… that's what rugby league's all about."
Finding a way to win even when you're not at your best is a trait Brown wants to instil in his troops and they only have to look at the defending premiers to see how it's done.
The Sharks have won six games by six points or less this season – including a 19-18 victory over the Knights – and are firmly entrenched in the top four. It's impossible to expect Newcastle to become premiership contenders overnight, but Brown hopes Saturday's result will teach his players that not all wins are built on freakish skills and impeccable execution.
"The fact that if you do compete hard and you cover for your mate and you scramble well, I'm hopeful that will have a really good effect on them," he said.
"You're not going to be at your best each week and we've seen Cronulla this year – one of the more fancied sides to win the comp – we've seen Cronulla at some stages this year just win those close games and have the ability to find a way to win. That's the difference between being a good team, an average team or an OK team.
"Cronulla's probably the best in the comp at the moment at just finding a way to win a game, whether they played really well or OK or steady, they just win. That's the team you've got to end up being.
"It's not always pretty, and hopefully they get that confidence out of today knowing that if you work hard and you turn up and cover your mate's backside, you might find a way to win if you keep putting bodies in the right spots."
Winning ugly sits just fine with co-captain Jamie Buhrer.
"We've had our fair share of pretty losses and anyone could say that we were the better team on the day and we've lost, so I'll take an ugly loss every day. If we have another five ugly wins in a row, I'll take it," Buhrer said.
"As Browny said, a lot of the younger blokes really stepped up today and in the last five or six weeks they may have fallen short in areas, but they certainly stepped up today and they're a big reason why we won."