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Knights: Round 4

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Knights coach Nathan Brown will focus on his team's wholehearted effort and another sound defensive performance as they deal with the disappointment of a 13-12 extra-time loss to St George Illawarra at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday night.

Newcastle had their chances in a see-sawing game but could not deliver the knock-out punch, suffering their third straight loss by a single-figure margin after a first-up 14-8 victory over Cronulla.

Captain Mitchell Pearce had a field-goal attempt charged down in the 73rd minute and was off target with shots in the 78th and 80th minutes.

The Knights botched another opportunity to set up for a one-pointer midway through the second half of extra time and, from the change of possession, the Dragons marched up the field for Corey Norman to deliver the match-winner.

"Our effort was tremendous. Even against Penrith, going down 16-14, we probably weren't quite as good as we were the week before against Cronulla, but I don't think anyone would be critical of that," Brown said at the after-match media conference.

"If we'd got the field goal, I don't think St George would be critical of their effort neither.

"The challenge now is we've got to back up against Manly and come out and put in a good one on Saturday. That's going to be a challenge … against Manly, who are playing some good footy."

After four rounds, only unbeaten leaders Melbourne (40 points), sixth-placed Wests Tigers (43) and third-placed Canberra (44) have conceded fewer points than Newcastle (54).

Match Highlights: Knights v Dragons

"The area where we did put a lot more work in appears to be holding up for us, and holding up under pressure against good players," Brown said.

"That first four weeks of football, I'm not sure where we sit defensively, but we're only a bit over two tries a game which hasn't been a common trait for a Newcastle Knights side for a lot of years.

"So if we can maintain that, and keep that going and just tidy up one or two things – keep trying to improve a little – but as I said, as we saw over the weekend, a lot of sides had a lot of tired people and at times found it tough to get the combinations and score."

Physical and mental fatigue down the stretch contributed to playmakers Pearce and Mason Lino and game-breaker Kalyn Ponga not putting the Knights into the right areas to conjure up a winning play.

They took some wrong options, forced their hand and made some errors but Brown put that down to the pace of a game in which only seven penalties were blown in almost 88 minutes.

"There's some areas where I'm sure that all the sides who didn't quite get it right will look at and think we could have done a little bit better, and I'm sure we're in the same boat as them," he said.

"My thing with it is, if that's how it's going to be reffed, that's fine, as long as we keep doing it and there's not a kneejerk reaction to people complaining about it.

"If they're going to keep reffing it consistently both ways, then I'm not sure anyone should complain about it, but there's a lot of tired people on the field and it makes for interesting periods in the game."