Knights start life without Pearce strongly
The post-Mitchell Pearce era at Newcastle got off to the best start possible with a stirring win away from home, but coach Nathan Brown also knows it also exposed parts of the Knights' game that need fixing.
And chief among those is their kicking game.
Pearce, who underwent pectoral muscle surgery this week, was in the coach's box at Lottoland to see his teammates dig deep, breaking a 12-12 deadlock with a 75th minute try to centre Nathan Ross off crisp lead-up work from fullback Kalyn Ponga.
The 18-12 win was the Knights' fifth triumph of the season and moved them up from eighth to sixth on the ladder.
"The first eight weeks we might get a pass (mark) but if we don't improve then the next eight weeks won't be a pass," Brown said.
"When you've been through what we've been through for two years, they're all good wins, I can tell you that.
"Coming into our first game without Mitchell and winning a close game should provide a bit of confidence, and that's a big thing for us.
"To lose a player of Mitchell's ability – and I think people would agree he's been one of the form players in the comp to start the year – it doesn't make things easy.
"Thankfully Coggs (halfback Jack Cogger) came in and he's got parts of his game that are good, but then as a group, we have to look at our kicking game.
"We've certainly got a lot of work to do without Mitchell with our kicking game. We didn't kick the ball well at all.
"At 4-0 we were right on top and then we kicked it dead twice and kicked into their legs, and then Manly started to get some momentum.
"But we can sort that out and there's no reason why we can't keep competing hard and working hard, to keep giving ourselves a chance."
The Knights had just 42 percent possession, lost Daniel Saifiti to the sin-bin for 10 minutes, made 60 more tackles than Manly, gave away 11 penalties, had a completely new halves combination – Cogger and Connor Watson had not played an NRL game together – and still the Hunter club snared the win.
"The commitment to hang in there and turn Manly away with the amount of possession against us, I thought was a big effort...a remarkable achievement... and the boys deserve a lot of credit," Brown said.
"I've got more experienced players at the club now who know how to hang in there and win games and that's having an effect on the younger blokes. Some of the younger guys weren't at their best but their good and bad is getting a little closer, which is good."