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Matt Hilder

Inspired by some half-time home truths from coach Rick Stone, the Newcastle Knights NSW Cup side set a new benchmark in defence with a comprehensive 50-22 victory over the North Sydney Bears at St John Oval on Saturday.

Trailing 18-16 at the break on the back of poor ball control, the home side looked off their game until Stone intervened with some wise words of encouragement.   

It was a move that worked wonders for the Knights, who piled on 34 points and restricted the Bears to just four in the second half to cruise to a comfortable win.

Coach Stone was rapt with his side's strong defensive effort and has called on them to maintain that high standard for the rest of the season.  

"They’ve probably set themselves a benchmark now, particularly in defence and the effort and working together," Stone says.

"They are all the little things in the middle of the ruck that you need to do to give yourself a chance. 

"But that wasn't the case in the first half, because we had a few errors in our own area and gave up a couple of soft tries.

"I think we made seven errors in the first half and five of them were well and truly in our area.

"It presented Norths with four tries, because every time we lost the ball they scored off the next set.

"But we sorted that out at half-time and the second half was probably our best effort this year.

"We stuck to a plan, kept it simple and scored plenty of points in the end. 

"We improved 200 per cent defensively on what we did last week (against Mounties), which was good."

Hard-running forward Zane Tetevano was strong for the Knights in his first official match for 2014 after fracturing his hand in the Club's trial win over Canberra in Tamworth in late February. 

Stone was highly impressed with Tetevano's dominance up front in attack and defence. 

"I thought Zane was good," he says.

"He played plenty minutes and was nice and physical. 

"He was a bit untidy in a couple of spots in defence, but overall his first up performance was really good.

"The guy also played 60 minutes first up in the middle, which is some good time for his first outing.

"He is champing at the bit to keep improving and see if he can get a crack in the main grade."

Newcastle was given a significant boost in the lead-up to Saturday's match with NRL regulars Chris Houston and Travis Waddell dropping back to the NSW Cup. 

Both Houston and Waddell performed strongly in the win and Stone has no doubts they'll force their way back into the NRL team at some stage. 

"Obviously they don’t like it (dropping back), but the only way to get back in the top grade is to perform and show that you’re a first grader playing second grade," he says.

"There were a few boys that did that, which is pleasing because it gives the coach something to think about."