Knights 'far better' in 2017

On paper the result was the same for the Knights as it had been in their previous 18 NRL Telstra Premiership matches: a loss to continue a winless drought which now stretches over more than 10 months.

‌But Newcastle believe there were signs in the 26-22 defeat to the Warriors on Sunday which suggest they are a much-improved side this time around.

"I thought we showed that we are certainly a far better football team than last year," coach Nathan Brown said.

"I think we have shown that we have certainly made some good improvements.

"Anyone that watched the game [Sunday] would agree that a lot of the younger players have definitely made some great improvements physically."

Possessing a 22-20 lead with eight minutes remaining, Newcastle could and probably should have gone on to claim the two competition points, but instead allowed the Warriors to go 100 metres off their own line and eventually score the match-winner via Ryan Hoffman.

In the end it was a missed opportunity for the Knights, with prop Josh Starling telling that the idea of getting better was no longer enough to satisfy the playing group.

"We spoke about how much of an improvement it was [on last year], but we aren't in it just to be competitive anymore, we want to win every single game we play this year," Starling said.

"That was a step in the right direction, but we only played [to our plan] for about 45 minutes and let them score four tries just before the break, and we need to fix that.

"We came off the field at half-time with about a 45 per cent completion rate, and we spoke about the fact that we are not a team who can win games with probably any completion rate under 80 per cent.

"We had them where we wanted them at 8-0 after 20 minutes but then we just lost control of the game.

"Being young isn't an excuse anymore, a lot of these guys have had plenty of experience, they have had a season or half a season in first grade."

The Knights showed improvement in a number of areas, but perhaps most noticeably in defence where they were able to control the ruck and contain much of what the Warriors threw at them.

After finishing last season as the NRL's worst defensive side – averaging 36.4 misses per game – Newcastle missed only 24 in their opening clash of 2017, something which Warriors winger Ken Maumalo said was a noticeable difference.

"Newcastle were a lot better than they were last year, their leg drive, numbers in tackles and ability to slow the play the ball down, they were all better," Maumalo told

"That little tackle technique stuff probably let them down last year."

The Knights host the Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night, with both teams looking to recover from first-up defeats.