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Knights No.7 Mitchell Pearce.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is certainly glad Mitchell Pearce is back in the side but he still wants his Knights players to learn how to protect a lead regardless.

Brown says his side needs to play smarter at the pointy end of games, after almost throwing away the two point win over the Parramatta Eels.

The Knights went to an 18-16 lead midway through the second half, but Brown says they presented the Eels with too many opportunities to steal the win – including a close no-try call with 45 seconds remaining, when Bevan French put the ball down in the in-goal but his foot had skimmed the sideline.

"Any time that you win, you have got to be happy whether you are a side that's developing or [not],” Brown said.

"We played the last 15 minutes like boneheads, didn’t we? But it has been 12 weeks since 'Junior' [Mitchell Pearce] played.

"When we did lead by the small margin in the latter part of the game we could have done things a lot smarter." 

It was Pearce's first game back since round seven, and he made up for a bit of lost time with a try, an assist, a linebreak and two tackle busts.

Match Highlights: Knights v Eels - Round 18, 2018

But it was his leadership that really helped, according to Brown.

"He certainly brings a skill set that every side needs, and when you have them, they certainly make life easier for the rest of the playing group," the Knights coach said.

Pearce admited he felt a little rusty with his own performance, but was proud of his players’ determination to hold on for the victory.

"I thought some of the scramble defence was good tonight," the Knights co-captain said.

"We lost a few early tackles, but all in all, in the second half we scrambled really well. They threw everything at us, and Jarryd Hayne had a very good game.

"So we didn't beat any easy beats tonight – Parramatta played really well."

It was also a chance for Brown to see more of what he hopes will be the permanent halves combination of Pearce and former fellow Sydney Rooster Connor Watson.

"It was good for that combination to play together again and it was good for Connor having 'Junior' on the field to help his game," Brown said.

"There's been talk of who's going to be five-eighth, and sometimes we say we don't know, but him [Pearce] and Connor have played together for three wins."

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