Pressure mounts on Brown after Knightmare
NATHAN Brown might not want to concede this but after just six rounds one of the most hyped teams coming into this NRL season "are absolutely in disarray" after Newcastle crashed to an embarrassing 38-14 thumping to Gold Coast.
That was the brutally honest assessment from premiership-winning commentator Michael Ennis following the six tries to three defeat, while fellow NRL great Braith Anasta labelled Sunday's first-half performance in particular that ended with the Knights trailing 22-0 as "diabolical".
Many experts were tipping Newcastle to be potential top-four contenders this year but right now they look as though they couldn't beat time with a stick, such is the lack of belief and cohesion, as well as the worrying discipline in attack and energy in defence.
Brown was clearly shattered when he fronted the media post match but tried to stay positive, conceding fundamental errors killed his team's chances but said there were some positive signs, most notably the effort of under-fire skipper Mitchell Pearce.
You just have to look at this Newcastle squad and the performances they are dishing up to know something is horribly wrong.
Two if the three first-half tries scored by the Titans came directly from fundamental errors. Then they started the second half the same way, with a fourth try coming off another mistake.
But after a period in the second half where they put on three quick-fire tries to give themselves some hope they again wilted under the pressure, making the Titans look like world beaters.
Ennis declared near full-time: "They are shattered … . absolutely in disarray".
Anasta declared the first half was "diabolical" and added: "It is just not good enough".
Newcastle only completed 10 of 16 first-half sets and made six errors, 12 in total for the game.
Brown said there were no signs that told him this was coming.
"We certainly nailed training this week as far as our preparation went," Brown said.
"But decisions on polish and final touches looked shocking."
BROWN UNDER PRESSURE
For a team coming off four straight defeats, the Knights really needed to lift against the Titans. The fact they didn't is only going to make it harder for Brown to convince his bosses that he is the coach to lead this club into the future.
It's well known that Brown has a contract where the management can get rid of him at any time, and the way things are going right now that would have to be a growing concern.
After beating Cronulla in Round 1, they have since lost to Penrith, Canberra, St George Illawarra, Manly and now Gold Coast, four of those six games played at Newcastle.
This Sunday's game against Parramatta is also at home but after that the Knights have three straight on the road against Warriors, Bulldogs and Dragons.
PEARCE NOT TO BLAME
The Knights skipper put his hand up last week and took ownership for his team's dismal start.
But Brown wasn't about to let Pearce wear the blame after this rock-bottom loss.
"The real positive for us is that Mitchell played very well," Brown said.
"I thought he was near as good as anyone on the field.
"And once again our middles are working really, really hard, which they are just not getting the reward for."
Brown said he would stick with the Pearce-Connor Watson halves combination, while Kalyn Ponga scored his first try of the season and looked at his dangerous best in patches, running for 207m with seven tackle busts.
But for all the good it did given the errors and lack of energy in defence.
TITANS INJURY WOES
This was the exclamation point on the Knights' performance.
With Origin prop Jarrod Wallace (suspended) and Nathan Peats (pectoral) and AJ Brimson (thumb) also sidelined, the Titans suffered further setbacks with Keegan Hipgrave (back) ruled out while Kevin Proctor (quad strain) went down during warm up.
Then midway through the first half Ryan James (knee) was forced from the field.
James went down after an accidental collision and fears from Garth Brennan last night was that it could be an ACL injury.
"From all reports it doesn't look positive,' Garth Brennan said.
Brennan was justifiably proud of his team given the massive injury toll with five-eighth Tyrone Roberts exceptional against his former club.
GOLD COAST 38 (T Roberts 2 A Don M Gordon B Kelly P Sami tries M Gordon 7 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 14 (M Barnett H Hunt K Ponga tries M Barnett goal) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton, Phil Henderson. Crowd: 11,654