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O'Brien happy with Knights effort but spine needs to lift

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien says if his team scrambled like they did in a 24-6 loss to Penrith on Thursday night every week they'd have a couple more wins in the bank by now.

O'Brien was pleased with his team's defensive effort overall but frustrated a Penrith scrum play they had practised defending all week still led to points, while he also lamented some poor fifth-tackle options that he said the whole spine needs to work together to improve on.

"I thought at half-time they'd done a really, really good job," O'Brien said of his team.

"If we had that type of scramble and resolve towards our defence [every week] I don't think we're sitting in the ladder position we are. I reckon we pick up a couple of games. There's two I can think of that we would.

"Any time there's 24 points [conceded] it's not flattering, 24-6, but we put up a good fight tonight.

"Disappointing that we got done on a couple of plays that we defended all week at training and knew they were coming.

"When you're against a team full of confidence with minimal changes it's much easier to fall into your shapes and plays and I thought they did that really well, ended up getting us on a scrum play we practised all week as well.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Knights

"That's probably a sign when a team's scratching and fighting but we're not fighting smart, not as polished as what the opposition are.

"That's where we need to get to, the more time we spend together at training with combinations and finding out what our best style is with the guys that we've got."

Newcastle's poor kicking handed Penrith some golden chances to attack which they were able to capitalised on, he added.

"They scored three tries of three poor kicks from us when we were already on the back foot," he said.

"The first try was a kick early then they ran it on last, got us on that so we trained for both of those, then the scrum one.

"We turned the ball over a couple of times then how we gave the ball back to the opposition didn't help the cause.

"We put a ton of effort into trying to defend it and hold them out but ultimately got done on some plays."

Kurt Mann was the team's best player and a standout on both sides of the ball but still had to take partial responsibility along with Blake Green and Kalyn Ponga for the team's attacking woes, according to the coach.

"He epitomises the spirit and fight we're after at the Knights," he said of Mann.

"I've got to throw him in the boat with the rest of the spine, we're trying to get some polish. We're sort of relying on an incidental-type play to break the game open.

To'a with the big don't argue on Edwards

"You see the way the Panthers fall into their plays and their shapes, everything's quite fluent, it makes you a bit envious, so we need to get there.

"It's hard with the amount of personnel changes this team's had over a long period of time."

Winger Edrick Lee and back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon are each a chance of returning to the field from long term injuries in round eight, O'Brien said.

However he was noncommittal on whether Mitch Barnett had done enough to hold on to the starting edge forward role or whether he may be moved to the middle rotation to accommodate Fitztgibbon.


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