Knights loss highlights top-eight gulf

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien said he was shocked by some of the defensive lapses as he struggled to explain a 42-12 loss to Sydney Roosters.

The coach was livid on Saturday night, when, just three weeks out from the finals, he was shown the gulf between the premiership contenders and the Knights.

And while they are guaranteed their place in the finals, any success beyond that will take significant improvement.

“We’re going to give it our best shot of fixing it,” O’Brien said.

“The difference between our best performance and our worst is way too far apart.

“I get you’re not always going to be at your best but at the moment we’re getting too many guys that are nowhere near their best all on the same night.”

Over the past three games the Knights have had a troubling swing of form; stunned 36-6 by the Warriors before thumping Cronulla 38-10.

And after the Roosters deconstructed their defence on Saturday, O’Brien was last to question whether the harsh lessons they’re learning are sinking in.

“Some of the defence… I was shocked to see that,” he said.

“The inconsistent performances, our best is really pleasing but our worst is really disappointing.

“But we’ve had those conversations a few times now. There’s been a couple of other performances this year when you think they’ve been put to bed but clearly they come back to bite us when you don’t need it to.

“We need to pick ourselves up off the floor pretty quickly, we’ve got two games, we’re still in the finals but after a performance like that we need to address some stuff quickly.”

The Knights will face St George Illawarra and Gold Coast to round out the season before playing finals for the first time since 2013.

Kalyn Ponga, Hymel Hunt and Mitch Barnett are all set to return to the side after missing Saturday’s loss.

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Melbourne Demons lose to Fremantle Dockers, leaving AFL top-eight chance on the table

The Melbourne Demons have squandered a golden opportunity to climb into the AFL top eight, as they were taken down by Fremantle 6.11 (47) to 4.9 (33).

After the Bulldogs leapfrogged them into ninth spot with an upset win over West Coast on Sunday, the Demons had a chance to go one better and jump into eighth — tied on 32 points with the Dogs and Giants — with a win over the Dockers.

But pouring rain in Cairns helped to bridge any gap in quality between the two teams and made for a sloppy affair.

Thanks in no small part to the slippery conditions, only two goals were kicked in the first half, with Fremantle kicking one major and nine behinds.

Their accuracy improved as the rain eased after the long break, kicking 5.2 in the third and fourth quarters, as they kept the Demons at arm’s length for most of the night.

Michael Walters kicked half of the Dockers’ goals on the night, while four Demons — Bayley Fritsch, Jayden Hunt, Aaron van den Berg and Sam Weideman — potted one major each.

Melbourne was below its season average in almost every statistical category, with disposal efficiency one of the most glaring differences: 53.3 per cent on the night, compared to 71.2 per cent for the year.

Fremantle is now 13th on the ladder, while Melbourne sits 10th.

Making a finals run even less likely is the fact that GWS has a game in hand, having only played 14 to the Demons’ 15.

The Giants will try to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack with a win over last-placed Adelaide on Tuesday.

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