Knights loss highlights top-eight gulf

Newcastle's 30-point loss to the Sydney Roosters highlighted how far away they are from the NRL title contenders.

ADAM O'BRIEN
ADAM O'BRIEN Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien said he was shocked by some of the defensive lapses as he struggled to explain a 42-12 loss to Sydney Roosters.

The coach was livid on Saturday night, when, just three weeks out from the finals, he was shown the gulf between the premiership contenders and the Knights.

And while they are guaranteed their place in the finals, any success beyond that will take significant improvement.

"We're going to give it our best shot of fixing it," O'Brien said.

"The difference between our best performance and our worst is way too far apart.

"I get you're not always going to be at your best but at the moment we're getting too many guys that are nowhere near their best all on the same night."

Over the past three games the Knights have had a troubling swing of form; stunned 36-6 by the Warriors before thumping Cronulla 38-10.

And after the Roosters deconstructed their defence on Saturday, O'Brien was last to question whether the harsh lessons they're learning are sinking in.

"Some of the defence... I was shocked to see that," he said.

"The inconsistent performances, our best is really pleasing but our worst is really disappointing.

"But we've had those conversations a few times now. There's been a couple of other performances this year when you think they've been put to bed but clearly they come back to bite us when you don't need it to.

"We need to pick ourselves up off the floor pretty quickly, we've got two games, we're still in the finals but after a performance like that we need to address some stuff quickly."

The Knights will face St George Illawarra and Gold Coast to round out the season before playing finals for the first time since 2013.

Kalyn Ponga, Hymel Hunt and Mitch Barnett are all set to return to the side after missing Saturday's loss.