Simple errors prove costly for Knights again
If blatant fundamental errors at key times in NRL matches truly were 'coach killers', Newcastle Knights mentor Nathan Brown would be on life support.
The frustrated Knights coach was in no mood to sugarcoat another good effort spoiled by individual 'shockers' in Saturday's 33-26 loss to Gold Coast, by deflecting a series of clangers as "learning experiences" by his young team.
In three successive weeks, the Knights have come up with brain snaps at crucial times in matches they were well in. They have resulted in three successive losses after character-building victories over Wests Tigers and Manly.
On Saturday against the Titans Daniel Saifiti spilled a simple pass when returning a kick-off. Anthony Don scored from the scrum win, sparking a rally from the Titans that saw them score the last 15 points of the match.
A week earlier, with the Knights behind 12-6 in the first half against Penrith, they looked set to level the scores when Saifiti crossed the line, only to have the try disallowed because Knights five-eighth Connor Watson inexplicably grabbed Penrith marker Tyrone Phillips after playing the ball.
Moments later Watson was put in the clear and with Brock Lamb in support and a chance of scoring, but the pass was a shocker and was picked up by Tyrone Peachey who sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in for a try to Penrith.
And the previous round against South Sydney? Who will forget left-winger Ken Sio dropping the ball over the line as he tried to get closer to the posts in a schoolboy error at 16-12 behind early in the second half. The Rabbitohs went on to win 36-18.
And to make matters worse, Newcastle seem to flounder straight after the errors are made.
"It's a carbon copy of the last three games," Brown said of Saifiti's fumble against the Titans.
"We get ourselves in very strong positions and someone just makes an unforgiveable error.
"We had Kenny Sio two weeks ago, he played terrific today, and Connor Watson last week and Connor played terrific today. We had two or three blokes who were ordinary today and they'll probably be good next week.
"But who are the next three [players'] turn. That's what it's like at the moment."
Without NSW Origin halfback Mitchell Pearce as the game-manager the Knights are desperate for, Newcastle are almost back to the team they were in the previous three seasons when they won the wooden spoon – rarely lacking effort and energy but lacking the 'smarts' to close out a tough match.
"Without Pearcy there steering us, some of those deficiencies really show up; that's the reality of where we are at at the moment," added Brown.
"We are not responding very well with things are going wrong.
"The key moment of the game [today] we can't hide from. It was Daniel Saifiti at 26-18.
"They were shot ducks and we were on a roll and Daniel Saifiti just dropped the ball from the kick-off, with an inexcusable error.
"If it was an ugly kick-off, we accept that, but he actually got the ball passed straight to him.
"It's a concentration thing, the pressure that different individuals put us under, and we don't hold out well enough; we don't rally well enough to repel the other side.
"When you look at the context of it, it was another game where if we did things a little bit better ourselves in the basic part of the game, we could be in a different situation.
"It's not any one person. It's different people taking turns different weeks. But as a group, the group is not responding well and that is what we need to get better at it.
"Everyone makes mistakes. But some of the things we've had the past three weeks at key times?
"We can't keep doing that to ourselves."