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'Not even reserve grade stuff': Johns slams Newcastle's defence

POWER GAME: Newcastle players struggle to bring down Brisbane prop Payne Haas at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: Getty Images
ALL EFFORT: Jayden Brailey's 100th game will be one to forget. Picture: AAP
TOUGH NIGHT: Dom Young bobbles a catch. Picture: AAP

Newcastle Knights coach Adam O'Brien thought his players showed improved resilience but admitted they have plenty of work to do on their defence after losing 28-10 to the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night.

Newcastle were carved up on the edges at Suncorp Stadium with all five of Brisbane's tries scored out wide.

Broncos winger Selwyn Cobbo wreaked havoc on Newcastle's left edge and finished with a hat-trick.

He and centre Kotoni Staggs got the better of opposite pairing, Knights winger Enari Tuala and centre Bradman Best, on more than a few occasions.

Best did strike back in the 65th minute, scoring one of Newcastle's two tries, but Cobbo crossed for his second and third try in the final 10 minutes to seal the win.

Newcastle's right edge were almost as equally troubled. Centre Dane Gagai was badly caught out when Brisbane scored their other tries.

"They're a dangerous footy team; athletic and Reynolds does a really good job of putting them in the right positions," O'Brien said.

"Especially on last plays, I thought that was the difference between the two teams.

"Them young blokes out there, they've got a lot of strike about them."

O'Brien found some positives in his side's defensive efforts despite the Broncos' five-try haul.

"The scoreline might not suggest it ... but I reckon that there's a bit more resilience in our defensive line," O'Brien said.

"Even though they're a young group, I think we're trying our backsides off.

"But we've got to get better at a fair few things."

Knights coaching consultant Andrew Johns was highly critical of the side's edge-defence in his post-game analysis for the Nine Network.

"Some of the defensive decisions out there, you just shake your head - it's not even reserve-grade stuff," Johns said.

"I don't know whether it is a lack of concentration, or ... fitness, or just caring, but there were some decisions out there defensively where I'm just shaking my head."

Newcastle missed 38 tackles all up, a number that has become the norm in recent games. Gagai, and halves Anthony Milford and Adam Clune, all missed five each.

Gagai has now missed 73 tackles in 17 games this season, the 10th most in the NRL despite the veteran outside back having played less games than some of the players who have missed more.

The 243-game centre and Milford are both ranked inside the top 10 for average missed tackles, 4.3 per game.

O'Brien was "hopeful" of having prop David Klemmer back for the side's clash with Canberra at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

"He hurt a knee, just twisted it during the week," the coach said.

"Scans have cleared all the big stuff. There was some fluid in there that ... we were hoping would settle. In the captain's run it was still restricting him.

"I'm hopeful that he'll be right for this week.

"He was disappointed ... it's been a bad couple of weeks for Klem.

"He was busting to play."

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