Newcastle Knights NSW Cup coach Rick Stone says his charges are remaining positive ahead of the season opener despite a comprehensive 50-16 trial defeat at the hands of the Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve in Sydney on Sunday.
Stone was disappointed with the final result, but says his squad can learn plenty from the loss ahead of the season proper in a fortnight's time.
"We played a fair few part-timers in the second half and the scoreline blew out a little bit and it got a little bit untidy," Stone admits.
"I'm not taking too much into trials though, but we've got some work to do and we'll probably our access our injuries and see what our make up for both teams will be."
The Knights were soundly beaten on the scoreboard, but of greater concern for the Club is several serious injuries to key players.
Fullback Nathan Ross, who scored three tries in the loss, suffered a suspected broken jaw and will have X-rays on Monday.
Forward Clint Newton came from the field early in the first half clutching at his bicep after going into a tackle awkwardly.
Newton will also have scans on his bicep on Monday to determine the full extent of damage.
Meanwhile, veteran hooker Matt Hilder suffered a huge gash to the head in a sickening collision late the match that required stitches.
Hilder is expected to be fine though to play in the opening round.
On a positive note for the Knights, prop David Fa’aolgo was a standout in a beaten side.
Fa’aolgo has been one of the Club’s best performing forwards thus far in the pre-season and Stone is extremely happy with his efforts.
"It's always hard when you come back to a team where you don't know all your teammates, but Dave's professionalism has been terrific," he says.
"He has put his head down, worked hard and has done a real good job and I thought Dave was probably the standout of our players."
The Knights opened the scoring via Ross, who finished off some smart play by Hilder out of dummy half.
Danny Kerr missed the kick, but Newcastle led early 4-0.
Mounties responded minutes later to take the lead 6-4 - former Knight Kyle O’Donnell proving too elusive with a determined run to the line.
The Knights' woes were compounded when Newton came from the field clutching at his bicep.
At this point, it would have been easy for Newcastle to drop their intensity.
But lead by Ross, who crossed for his second try minutes later, the Knights rallied to regain the lead 10-6.
Interchange forward Reggie Saunders then came on up front and had immediate impact.
Saunders is on a trial contract after impressing the Club playing for the First Nations Goannas and gave Newcastle plenty of power up front.
The Knights were on top at this stage and on the back of a Tom Lidden 40/20 kick, they extended their lead.
Mounties responded just before halftime to lock the scores at 16-all at the break.
They continued the momentum into the second half and were first to score, taking the lead 20-16 on the back of a brilliant team try.
The Knights looked in trouble and all the play was with Mounties, who crossed again from an uncontested kick to jump out to a 26-16 advantage with just 10 minutes remaining.
Newcastle had their chances to get back into the match, but it was the Mounties outfit who piled on the points in the closing stages to charge to a comprehensive victory.