While the NYC Newcastle Knights looked to be back to full strength on Sunday, the team was unable to contain the St George Illawarra Dragons who fought hard to lift from bottom of the competition ladder.
NYC Coach Troy Pezet said their opposition came out firing at Jubilee Oval, which put the young Knights onto the back foot right from the outset.
“We just got off to a really bad start, then it took its toll on us and we couldn’t find the energy,” he said.
“We just got too far back and couldn’t get forward."
The boost provided by Danny Levi, who has played up in the NRL for the past five rounds, proved to be a double-edged sword for the team.
“With Danny coming back maybe the boys just thought, he’ll make it happen today," he said.
“On the other hand that knocks your continuity around that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks and we probably just didn’t sort it out very well on the edges."
Top performers for Pezet were in the side's back line, as well as the halves who were solid.
“As usual, I thought Kenny (Tofilau) and Mao (Uta) brought a heaps of energy and they tried really hard,” he said.
“Brock (Lamb) fought hard and didn’t give in and he was still chasing until the end and Bryce Donovan, he gave plenty of energy as well.”
Approaching the pointy end of the competition, Pezet says the Under 20s Knights must switch on and make the most of preparation for the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.
"It’s important with five rounds to go that we concentrate now on our recovery leading into next week and just try to tidy up some areas,” Pezet said.
"We are young and we are supposed to be enthusiastic and that’s a part of where we let ourselves down."
Jack Cogger returned for his first game back in five weeks after recovering from an ankle injury to re-establish his partnership with Lamb in the halves.
“It was a bit hard, especially with that score line…but it was good to finally be back,” Cogger after the game.
The Australian Schoolboys representative thought the biggest battle the side faced on the field was against themselves.
“We wanted to keep turning up and each time they scored and we though, 'yes, we’ll fix something', but we just couldn’t get it done today," he added.
“The more we tried the harder it got.
“We probably had our strongest team on the park for a while.
“It didn’t show obviously, but it was good to get everyone back together so we could start to get those combinations back together and win a few games at least.
“We will re-group after this week and will have another good week at training."
With the semi finals looming and the Knights determined to remain in the mix, this Sunday’s game at Hunter Stadium holds plenty of importance.
“We come back at home Sunday…hopefully we can get a win coming into the semis,” Cogger concluded.