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Knights hooker Chris Randall.

Coach Adam O'Brien has predicted Newcastle will "fly into the finals" despite his understrength team going down 35-22 against Brisbane to finish their regular season.

O'Brien rested many of his regulars, including second-rower Tyson Frizell, and only gave star playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga a 45-minute hitout on Saturday to tune up for next week.

Prop David Klemmer copped a rib cartilage injury but O'Brien backed the enforcer to push through pain in an eliminator against the Eels.

Despite a five-match winning streak coming to an end, O'Brien was upbeat as he dissected the defeat at Suncorp Stadium.

"There were parts of the game I was disappointed with, there were parts of the game we stood up and I was really proud," he said.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Knights

"We've got some good footy players that are only young men that haven't played footy for so long. They were just busting to get out there.

"Since I rested seven [players] - but I really rested nine - to be fighting there at the end, and we bombed about four or five [tries] … I'm proud of them for that part."

Newcastle's attack was somewhat clunky at times but that wasn't of much concern for O'Brien. The side's only try in the first half came when Ponga delivered a delightful cutout pass to Enari Tuala.

"Would we have liked [Pearce and Ponga] to have connected a little bit more? Yeah, but they both wanted to play some footy," O'Brien said.

"They’ve been out. Both Kalyn and Junior have missed a fair chunk of footy. We know that it's going to go up a level next week.

Ponga with the bullet pass to Tuala

"So they just wanted to get some minutes. We stuck to the plan, regardless of the scoreboard, regardless of that connection. Once it got to the 50-minute mark, we were getting them both off."

As well as expecting Klemmer to play, O'Brien said NSW Origin front-rower Daniel Saifiti is set to return from a three-week knee injury.

"I think we fly into the finals. We've got nine or 10 good footballers sitting there at home waiting to get ready to play," he said.

"If anything, I think they’ll be proud of our young guys like Chris Randall, Phoenix Crossland, Jack Johns played close to 80 minutes."

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