AMID the carnage at the start and the collapse at the end of their crazy 50-24 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium yesterday, Knights coach Wayne Bennett’s belief never wavered.
Trailing 24-0 in less than even time, it was not so much a case of Bennett believing Newcastle could necessarily win yesterday.
But he believes they can win consistently, eventually, once they start to trust him and his methods that bore six premierships in his first 21 years at Brisbane and made the Broncos perennial contenders.
Bennett has been singing from the same hymn sheet since the start of the season, in which the Knights have won just four of 12 games, and is not about to change tune.
‘‘They’ve got to experience what I know, and what I know works. It’s a learnt thing, and that’s the retraining part of it,’’ Bennett said after Newcastle’s fourth straight loss.
‘‘I haven’t coached for 26 years in the NRL and don’t know what works.
‘‘My challenge is to get them to buy into what works. We’ve got a choice.
‘‘I had a choice when I went there. I don’t want them to finish eighth or ninth every year.
‘‘We’re not interested in that.
‘‘We’re driving being a top team and setting up a system that’ll make them a top club for a long period of time.
‘‘We take some pain now, we’ll take the pain, and we’ll keep taking the pain until we get it right.
‘‘If you look at the Broncos, that’s what they produce, and they’ve produced it here for 25 years. You look at the Storm, they produce the same thing, year after year, week after week. That’s where we want to be.
‘‘I’ve been here so many times, and I’m not second-guessing myself about it.
‘‘That’s what experience gives you.
‘‘We all know where we’re going, and more importantly I know where we’re going.’’
The Broncos scored 24 points from four converted tries in the first 21 minutes and another 24 from another four converted tries in the last 15 minutes.
The Knights outscored them 24-2 with four converted tries of their own in a 32-minute period in between, and, remarkably, had regained the upper hand to be trailing 26-24 and on the attack deep in Brisbane territory in the 64th minute.
But second-rower Chris Houston was penalised for trying to drag opposite number Alex Glenn off teammate Darius Boyd after Glenn had wrestled Boyd to the ground in a ball-and-all tackle.
Broncos skipper Sam Thaiday scored under the posts a minute later to stretch Brisbane’s lead to 32-24.
The Knights turned it up after that, conceding three more converted tries to suffer their fourth straight loss and heaviest defeat of the season.
Before the penalty against Houston, there were two other critical turning points.
After the Knights had responded to Brisbane’s initial onslaught with three converted tries in eight minutes, five-eighth Jarrod Mullen ran more than 90metres to score just before half-time but video referee Bernard Sutton disallowed it because Mullen was off-side when he recovered a kick after it deflected off Houston’s leg.
Instead of being locked up at 24-all, the Knights trailed 26-18 at half-time after Corey Parker kicked the goal from the ensuing penalty.
Then Boyd lost the ball over line when he appeared certain to score in the 50th minute and the Broncos were still eight in front.
‘‘That was the tragedy of the second half,’’ said Bennett, describing his team as ‘‘mentally fragile’’.
‘‘Darius lost the ball over the line, Mullen makes a break and throws it to one of the Broncos, [Tyrone] Roberts does the same thing ... then we gave that penalty away.
‘‘Obviously that broke our hearts, we gave up a soft try, then the next three tries were soft.’’
Skipper Danny Buderus, who sparked Newcastle’s fightback with two of their three first-half tries, said the penalty against Houston was difficult to accept.
‘‘Any time you give a penalty away in possession it’s a killer, but on the back of the effort we put in to get back into a position to win, it was real hard to take,’’ Buderus said.
‘‘There were a lot of momentum changes during that whole match, but that was definitely the big one.
‘‘Down 24-0, on the back of a very long week, we’ve done a lot of things as a group to try to get everything back on track. We did a few things as a senior group to get the confidence back in the younger guys and a bit of belief in where they’re going.
‘‘If it didn’t blow out in that last 10 or 15 minutes, we could have taken a lot of positives out of the game, and we still will. We’ll take a few things out of it, to come back into a position to try to win, and it was there for us.
‘‘That’s where we are as a team – we’re close, but we’re a fair way away, as well.
‘‘Like Wayne keeps saying, we’ll keep driving the bus, keep turning up, we’ll get our momentum and when we do we’ll jump on it and hopefully have a bit of a run.’’
Though he was disappointed with the start and finish, Bennett praised his players for digging themselves out of a deep hole and giving themselves a chance to win.
‘‘The start was the last thing we wanted, the way we’ve been playing, but I can’t give them enough credit for that effort to come back and get in that game.
‘‘I’m just not sure how they did that,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘We’re not playing with a great deal of confidence, and that brought out the 24-nil situation, then they got themselves into a situation in the second half to win it, but managed to find a way to lose it.
‘‘We took the soft option in the end and gave up some easy tries, but at least we went for 40 minutes today.’’