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It was the first word out of Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien's mouth when asked to comment on his team's 39-2 surrender to Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

O'Brien felt compelled to apologise to the crowd of 25,169 that packed in to witness Newcastle's worst loss on home turf since he took the coaching reins in 2020, surpassing their 40-4 loss to the same opponents on June 6 last year.

It also described his team's insipid performance as they slumped to their fifth straight loss and slid to 14th position on the Telstra Premiership ladder.

Whatever optimism was generated by victories over Sydney Roosters (20-6) and Wests Tigers (26-4) in the first two rounds seems a distant memory, and there is no relief in sight as the embattled Knights welcome Melbourne to town next Sunday.

"To put in that performance, there's not much to be proud of at the moment," O'Brien said.

"I thought we attacked well last week [against the Dragons] but we were awful today with the ball.

"We're in a bit of a rut at the moment and we've got to stick together really tight and fight our way hard out of this."

O'Brien wants his side to stick together

The first five of Parramatta's six tries were the direct result of Newcastle's soft goal-line defence.

"I don't want to give you a headline, so I'll be choosing my words really carefully, but not acceptable; not at this level," O'Brien said.

"Nothing to do with personnel or injuries, just not acceptable at this level, and we know that.

"That's not good enough. That's not the sort of performance we want to put in defensively, anywhere, let alone here at home with 25,000 watching us.

"… There's guys that were out there, and I'm in this too, we need much better performance than that, regardless of injury."

Parramatta made eight line breaks to two, dominated field position and time in possession, ran for 700 more metres, completed at 85% to 67%, and forced 39 missed tackles by the Knights.

Eels fans in the crowd started up a chant of "Parra… Parra …" when Isaiah Papali'i burrowed over for the first of his two tries in the 58th minute, and the same could be heard just before Papali'i crashed over from dummy-half for his second nine minutes later.

Such was their dominance, the Eels showed off a scrum-base trick play in which Mitchell Moses kicked ahead for Will Penisini to score eight minutes from full-time, then Moses potted a field goal as the final siren sounded.

"It was easily, that's the hardest one I think we've had to take for a while, and like I said, we're going to have to dig deep and get ourselves out of it," O'Brien said.

"I know we can but it's not going to just happen, and the mob rolling into town next week aren't going to take it easy on us.

"But number one, we need to stick together and find out why we're in this game, why we want to play this sport, why we want to represent the town. We find that 'why', then we're going to have to fight really hard for it, because we've lost that little bit of mojo from our first two rounds.

"Certainly, were we as good as we thought in the first two games? Perhaps not, but we've lost the excitement or the will to put your body on the line on that try-line."

Dane Gagai stuns Nathan Brown with a big hit

Newcastle's only joy came from a Jake Clifford penalty goal in the eighth minute, which gave the Knights a 2-0 lead, but the alarm bells rang just four minutes later when Shaun Lane ran over the top of David Klemmer to score the first of Parramatta's six tries.

Kalyn Ponga was forced from the field for a mandatory head injury assessment seven minutes later, and the Knights trailed 12-2 by the time Ponga returned.

"Being out there, there was just a lack of energy, a lack of want, and it just felt like we couldn't go another gear," Ponga said.

"If you look at our efforts over the last few weeks, it hasn't been like that. It's always been there, but we've just probably lacked concentration over the last few weeks, but today was different."

Knights fans must have hoped for something special from Ponga after their skipper signed a new five-year deal worth more than $1million a season earlier in the week, but he had precious few opportunities playing behind a pack that was man-handled and out-muscled by their opponents.

"It's pretty embarrassing a little bit, to be honest," Ponga said.

"To put that performance in front of those [fans], we had 25,000 here and X amount watching at home, so yeah, it's not good enough."

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