Newcastle coach Nathan Brown admits his side were dealt a lesson in physicality by Penrith’s little men during their 40-0 hammering on Friday night.
Brown took aim at a defence that not only gave up seven unanswered tries but showed little of the fight they displayed in a promising three weeks to their campaign.
“From a physical point of view, our defence around the ruck which has been really good in the first three games, it was poor,” Brown said.
“Matt Moylan’s obviously an outstanding player skill-wise but he’s not a real big guy. There was 4-5 occasions where he’s standing in tackles when he’s a lighter guy.
“Their halfbacks are playing the ball in one to two seconds on our tryline, their outside backs were picking the ball up and running past 4-5 defenders.
“They’re examples of our ruck defence and the will and want to do really well.”
The Knights were only a try behind inside the opening 20 minutes at Pepper Stadium before their defence was sliced at will, missing twice as many tackles their opposition.
The Panthers’ 1683 running metres dwarfed that of the Knights’ 972, however Brown denied the blowout defence was a step back from their development in the opening month of the year.
“People gotta remember, seven years ago Ivan Cleary started this club doing the exact same job that I’m one year into at the minute as a staff and group of players,” Brown said.
“Penrith aren’t the premiership favourites for no reason. They got us today when they were far more committed in the middle part of the field.
“And when you don’t win the advantage, there’s some players who are very skilful and they showed today that when they get it right, how good a players they are.”
Knights duo Danny Levi and Jacob Saifiti left the field due to concussion but returned, while forward Mitch Barnett came off with a suspected injury.
“I think he’s okay, Barney always plays on the borderline, so he’s always got bumps and bruises,” Brown said.