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Mata'utia injured in heavy trial loss to Dragons

Newcastle look certain to be without utility forward Sione Mata'utia for their round one clash against the Warriors after he injured his right knee in the 38-12 loss to the Dragons in Maitland.

The 23-year-old is one of the 'Mr Versatiles' of the Knights squad able to play in the back row and the backline.

He took to the field with his left knee heavily strapped but ended up damaging his right.

"It looks to be medial (ligament). They range (in severity) so hopefully it's the minor end of it," Knights coach Adam O'Brien said.

"It was a knee clash so I think initially he was hoping it was a cork and he could run it out.

"He's a tough boy. I thought he was moving really well before that injury and doing some really good stuff defensively for us.

"He'll be a loss for us but... next man up."

Match Highlights: Knights v Dragons

Mata'utia will undergo scans to find out the extent of the damage.

He is just one headache for O'Brien, who in his rookie year as an NRL head coach and is trying to fulfil the promise of a talented Knights outfit under his care.

But in the second half, when he pulled most of his NRL stars from the field, he was let down by some of the development players who have trained throughout the pre-season with the first-graders.

"It was a trial that had everything that I wanted to see and everything that I didn't want to see all in 80 minutes," O'Brien said, acknowledging he gave his squad a rocket at three-quarter time after they let in four tries.

Knights fullback Tex Hoy.
Knights fullback Tex Hoy. ©NRL Photos

"Really disappointed with some guys in that second stint. The Dragons came out and ran harder and tackled harder.

"They had a sprinkling of first-graders still playing but we had a couple as well. I didn’t want us to use that excuse.

"We had full faith in our younger guys and I think everyone from the region was really excited to see local products playing.

"But at the same time local products need to aim up too. I just reminded them of that. Wearing the jumper is one part of it, but you've got some responsibility when you wear it.

"There were some young guys there but caught out by the occasion.

"I'm not going to put a red line through them – they're young, they're on a journey – but at the same time they were similar to the Dragons in age and experience but they outplayed us. So we've got some work to do with that younger group coming through."

O'Brien wasn't naming names but he now has a week to plug some holes before he meets the club he just left – the Roosters at Gosford.

Knights prop David Klemmer.
Knights prop David Klemmer. ©NRL Photos

"We'll take a smaller bus next time. We'll have a far reduced squad. We'll get more minutes and more continuity with our squad," he said.

Someone who will want more time is Test forward David Klemmer. He appeared very unhappy to be pulled from the field before the half-time siren.

"I could feel Klem staring me down from the sideline but we stuck to our plan," O'Brien said.

"I didn’t want round four to feel like round eight for Klem so I make no apologies for only giving him 20 (minutes)."