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Ponga and O’Brien apologise to fans after pathetic Knights thrashed by Parra

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has apologised to the Knights supporters after his team were trounced 39-2 by Parramatta on Sunday afternoon.

It was the worst showing of the season so far from Newcastle, who disintegrated defensively and gifted Parra several cheap tries, and inevitable that – despite an excellent Eels performance – the attention would focus on the failings of the hosts.

“Sorry,” said O’Brien to open the post-match press conference. “To the 25,000 (who turned up), to put in that performance. There’s not much to be proud of at the moment.”

“(The defence) was not acceptable. Not at this level. It’s got nothing to do with personnel or injuries. It’s just not acceptable at this level and we know that.

“It’s not the sort of performance we want to put in defensively anywhere, let alone here at home with 25,000 people watching up.

“It was easily the hardest (losses) we have to take for a while. We have to dig deep and get ourselves out of it.”

Ponga, who was celebrating his new long-term deal with Newcastle, admitted that he was embarrassed by the showing.

The goalline defence in particular was terrible, conceding five tries from short range that were eminently preventable. 33 tackles were missed and no set restarts conceded by either team, suggesting that Newcastle might have been naive in not engaging the dark arts to assist their line.

It was a return to form for Parra. They had been their own worst enemy against the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday but this week, it was a pitch perfect performance that saw them complete high – almost 90% – and dominated possession, managing 60% of the ball in the second half.

Mitchell Moses was superb, dominating with long and short kicking and threatening with his running game, and did his work on the back of a forward pack that included five players who topped a hundred running metres. The best for Newcastle, in contrast, was David Klemmer on 82.

“I’m just happy with the overall professionalism,” said Brad Arthur. “We still played plenty of footy, we still threw the ball around. But we were patient and earned the right. Very happy with the two points.”

The Knights actually opened the scoring via a Jake Clifford penalty goal, but that was as good as it got for them.

The manner in which they lost their lead was entirely of their own doing, and in keeping with the trend of the afternoon.

David Klemmer inexplicably went for a legs tackle on the tallest man on the field, Shaun Lane, from close range and the Parramatta forward couldn’t believe his luck as he toppled over the line.

Things were going from bad to worse for Newcastle. Kalyn Ponga appeared to fake injury in order to draw a penalty, only to be pulled for a HIA by the bunker for real. Then, when in good ball for the first time in the game, they dropped the footy on play one.

When Parramatta got into good situations, they did not miss. Again it was Shaun Lane to make the difference, this time offloading smartly to give Hayze Perham his first try in the blue and gold.

Just before the break, they would return again with points as Mitchell Moses took a penalty to make a 12-point different at half time.

As the second half began, the traffic kept coming down Newcastle’s right edge. This time it was Dylan Brown who went through weak defence from Dane Gagai and Jake Clifford.

It was Reed Mahoney who spotted an injury-affected Gagai and directed the attack towards him, but he couldn’t have expected how poor the tackling would be.

The Knights forwards were not far from putting up the white flag. Parramatta eased upfield on the back of points and when the kick arrived, Phoenix Crossland was adjudged to have impeded Mitchell Moses. The halfback extended the lead to beyond three converted tries.

They needn’t have worried about the margin. The Knights goalline defence was a shambles, and even when the Eels stuffed up the last play, Isiah Papali’I was able to turn in a tackle with four defenders and force the football to the turf.

Newcastle were shot to pieces. Bailey Simonssen and Dylan Brown carved through the middle and returned them to the right end of the field, where Papali’i again got himself over in shambolic circumstances, the Knights’ goalline defence in disarray.

Parramatta were manifesting their own success, and Newcastle the opposite. The Eels kicked behind on play one from a scrum, the sort of play you only try when 30 up, and Edrick Lee fumbled it beneath himself for Penisini to ground, the sort of thing that only happens when you’re 30 behind.

You could make that 37 points: Moses kicked a field goal with seconds on the clock to underline the Eels’ dominance.

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