The Newcastle Knights were challenged by a physical North Queensland Cowboys side on Saturday night with the Knights unable to contain their opposition.
Coach Nathan Brown and Jeremy Smith spoke to the media following the Round 13 loss.
"Tonight’s (loss) wasn't due to lack of effort," Brown said.
"Physically they have some big players who are very mature and are Origin and grand final winning players. They are all very experienced.
"I have no issue with the effort we put in and thought when we did get the ball, the guys actually caused them some problems.
"We just couldn’t physically compete with them."
"We played a side tonight that won the grand final last year and they won it for a reason.
“They were a lot older and a lot more experienced than us.
“It's a great lesson for a lot of our younger players to realise what it's like and how tough it is to play in the NRL when you play a side that's a grand final side.
"The relentless pressure they put you under and how physically hard it is to compete.”
It was a challenging learning experience for many of the Knights’ young players who matched up against some of the best players in the game.
"It's the stage of the Club we are going through where we are developing young players," he said.
"You're playing seasoned veterans who are in the primes of their career."
While the score line was less than pleasing, Brown detected valuable improvements from the team.
"Our attack has definitely improved a lot in the last few weeks. With the score with what it was, some people might think it's a bit funny, but I thought at times we did cause some trouble with limited opportunity," he said.
"We competed pretty hard for a fair period."
"Dane Gagai I thought was outstanding after backing up from Origin.
"Jack Cogger is an 18-year-old halfback and I thought he was outstanding when you think about the situation that we have put him in.
"He has showed that his long-term future in the game is very bright.
"He carried a tight calf into the game and we are hopeful it's some bad cramping.
"It was one that was enough to not allow him to go back on.
Joint-captain Jeremy Smith spoke about his role in the team and said he aims to motivate his teammates when times get hard.
"I still have to go out there and do my job and do it to the best I can and guide them along as best a possible," he said.
"It's pretty tough in the middle where I play.
“The players I have around me, I try to encourage them and keep getting them up and make them believe in themselves.”
Although the result was disappointing for the team, Smith was happy with the determination and fight shown until full time.
“They do that to most teams, and having them do it to us, it's certainly tough,” he said.
“We will gain a lot from it, especially the younger boys, knowing what it takes to compete against good sides.
“When they do get a roll on it can really change the game.
“We spoke about not giving up and fighting to the end and we showed that tonight. Probably not on the scoreboard but in ourselves.
"We knew it was going to be a tough ask coming up here, we knew it was going to be a tough ask coming up here, but all we could do is compete hard and that's what we did.
“We have Warriors at home and the boys will put in a fair week of recovery this week and we'd like to put in a good one at home.
The Knights return to Newcastle in Round 14 and play the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday.
“It's going to be important that we put in a good one at home,” he said.
“After the bye we will have a fair few experienced players back.
“Getting five or six experienced players to put with the young ones, I think it's going to help us in the back part of the year when we have a lot of home games.”