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Ricky Stuart described Canberra's defence as the worst in two years and accused them of "playing like children" after Newcastle delivered a reality check to the 2019 grand finalists.

The Knights scored in the second minute of the match and led 28-6 early in the second half as Kalyn Ponga, Bradman Best and Edrick Lee ran rampant against Canberra’s right edge defence in the 34-18 defeat at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday.

A frustrated Stuart said the only positive to come out of the match for the Raiders was that the players had been reminded that type of performance was not good enough against quality opposition like Newcastle.

"We started very, very poor. It was one of those games you want to forget really quickly because we weren’t in the contest at all, we didn’t accept the challenge and Newcastle were very good. They man-handled us," Stuart said.

"Defensively tonight we were the worst we have defended for two years. It was a very, very poor showing of commitment in defence and it is not just the edges I am talking about, or the right edge - it all starts in the middle, and we played like children tonight."

Raiders: Round 4

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The loss was Canberra’s first of the season and while he hadn’t seen any warning before Sunday’s performance, Stuart had been disappointed with the second half in last weekend’s 18-6 defeat of Melbourne.

Co-captain Jarrod Croker was also at a loss to explain the performance but said teams who started poorly found it difficult to recover with the speed of the game under the new six-again rule.

Jack Wighton leaps high to score.
Jack Wighton leaps high to score. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"From the defensive efforts we have put in over the past 18 months that was poor. It wasn’t us," Croker said.

"Regardless of six-again and new rules, and quick play-the-ball speed and momentum, we have got to be a lot better than that.

"We’ll cop our medicine this week, we need to cop it and we need to react. It is every single player in the squad, we need to work forward and put it behind us because it is obviously a shortened comp as well.”

Star five-eighth Jack Wighton had a mixed game, scoring a spectacular try from a George Williams kick but he was also responsible for some defensive errors that led to tries.

Wighton failed to return from a HIA in the 64th minute after a head clash with Newcastle second-rower Sione Mata’utia and Stuart said the NSW Origin representative had been targeted by opponents looking to prevent him from chasing his kicks.

"Jack’s been getting taken out of play after he kicks quite often," Stuart said.

"It is something we spoke about this week, I asked him to go to the referees and talk about it on field.

Wighton flies high to get the Raiders back in the game

"Because he is known as a very good kick chaser after he kicks he gets pulled and tugged off the ball. That was a lazy play but it was an accident.

"I don’t think there was any malice in it, I am pretty sure the players involved in it wouldn’t have meant to hurt Jack … but you can’t take a kicker out of play."

The Raiders are hopeful Wighton will be available for next Saturday night’s match against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.