The Newcastle Knights were left to contemplate the aftermath of a second half comeback by the Brisbane Broncos at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
Dane Gagai, Pat Vaivai and Clint Newton spoke to Knights TV after the loss, as the players reflected on the disappointing Round 11 result.
With holes left in the Knights’ forward pack because of the absence of Beau Scott (NSW Origin), Robbie Rochow (back) and Jeremy Smith (sternum), a spot opened up for front-man Pat Vaivai to enter the mix.
The NSW Cup mainstay played off the interchange bench in his second NRL match this season.
“I think they had a point to prove tonight, they can still play with their Origin players out,” Vaivai said.
“We had a few players out too but it’s still no excuse.
“I thought the starting forward pack did well and the bench boys tried to keep the pace up.
“We just wanted to roll their middle. They had a young forward pack but I thought their forward pack stood pretty strong."
While the red and blue powered to an eight-point lead in the first half, the second stanza was a different story.
Contributing to the Knights’ hardship was the loss of captain Kurt Gidley in the second half due to a head knock.
“When you’re playing without your skip you miss him,” Vaivai added.
“There were a few errors and they had the momentum going and we just couldn’t stop it."
Recuperation from the gruelling Monday night match will be the emphasis moving forward, given the team travel to New Zealand in Round 12.
“It’s a short turn around with the flight, so we will try to get our body right and ready for a Friday flight and hopefully get the win on Sunday,” Vaivai explained.
“Despite the result, Vaivai maintains every first grade game, especially on home turf is a highlight.
“All the games I’ve played have been at Hunter Stadium,” he said.
“I’m finding the fitness a lot easier game by game.
“Hopefully I’ll get a few games under my belt and will do well."
Dane Gagai agreed it was a tale of two halves where the Knights build a decent eight-point lead in the first stanza but came up against a firing Broncos in the second.
“That just comes down to completion,” Gagai lamented.
“We completed at around 80 per cent in the first half and so did they.
“It was obviously a very close half.
“We went into half time with confidence and came out in the second half and a few errors cost us.
“At the end of the game we ended up coming down to 60 something per cent in the second half.
“It’s always going to be tough when you’re completing at that.
“I guess we got a little bit rattled when we lost Kurt Gidley, but we don’t make any excuses.
“Losing him doesn’t mean we get to drop balls. We have to look into that and get that out of our game next week."
Gagai praised his teammates like Tyler Randell, Chad Redman and Vaivai who stood up to fill the roles.
“I think they went well,” he said.
“They were also missing a lot of key players and were a fairly young squad too, so I guess it came down to which young blokes were going to stand up.
“I think our guys did really well.
“But it’s always going to be tough completing at 60 per cent."
With the late withdrawal of young forward Joe Tapine due to back strain in warm up, experienced head Clint Newton was brought onto the bench.
“I love playing in front of a home crowd,” Newton said, who has played 103 first grade matches with the Club.
“It’s just disappointing with the result. It’s never good to lose at home.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t play good enough footy.
“They (Broncos) are renowned for doing that and Wayne (Bennett) has always been very good at that during the years with getting a team up during Origin time and they pride them selves on that.
“We just didn’t capitalise."
The NSW Cup captain was pleased to see Knights’ emerging talent seize the opportunity to impress on the NRL stage.
“It’s always a learning experience when you’re playing first grade. Those boys will get a bit out of that game,” he said.
“Hopefully they can bounce back with a win over in New Zealand.
“If we’re prepared to apply more pressure in the games, you’re going to give yourself every opportunity to win.”
The Knights travel to New Zealand on Friday, with all three grades playing at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.