Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has lashed out at his “entitled” side, saying he is embarrassed by their performance in a shock NRL loss to Canterbury.
The Bulldogs staged one of the upsets of the season on Sunday, holding off a late comeback from an injury-hit Knights side to prevail 18-12 in the wet.
Knights duo Andrew McCullough (hamstring) and Connor Watson (achilles) were chaired from the field after suffering season-ending injuries.
However O’Brien was more upset with his team’s attitude than the potentially fatal loss of two hooking options for the rest of the year.
“I’m not talking about the injuries, I’m talking about the attitude of the team, too – the way we started,” O’Brien said post-game.
“I’m embarrassed for the people that sat out in that rain for 80 minutes.
“It’s not good enough.”
O’Brien said it was similar to their surprise defeat to another side outside the top eight in North Queensland in round seven.
“We’ve lost two, I guess you’d call them attitude games,” he said.
“We went to Townsville and looked at where the Cowboys were sitting on the ladder, and then we thought we’d roll up at home and looked at the Bulldogs.
“We’ve got to work out what sort of team we want to be and what we want to get out of this season because I feel like we think we’re entitled to everything at the moment.”
Newcastle not only struggled to overcome the loss of both players, but also the heavy conditions at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The last-placed Bulldogs had no such issues, completing at more than 90 per cent to claim just their second win of the season.
The victory comes just days after the appointment of incoming coach Trent Barrett, who will take plenty of positives out of their no-frills performance.
Veteran front-rower Aiden Tolman was among Canterbury’s best, carting the ball up for a team-high 181 metres and also adding a crucial first-half try.
Hooker Jeremy Marshall-King tallied a game-high 50 tackles, and set up a try for Raymond Faitala-Mariner in the second half.
The contest appeared over when centre Jake Averillo pounced on a Kieran Foran grubber to make it a three-try cushion in the 49th minute.
The Knights finally found some footing when Hymel Hunt made the most of a Tautau Moga offload to reduce the deficit to 12 points.
The 3521 souls who braved the conditions were treated to a thrilling finish when Sione Mata’utia slid over with 10 minutes left.
But the Bulldogs held off a series of attacking waves on their own tryline in the final 20 minutes to earn their first win since round four.
Canterbury caretaker Steve Georgallis said the victory was a reward for some gritty efforts over the past few weeks.
“I know the last 10 minutes was really hard as a coach to watch, but it’s just the way they kept turning up for each other and playing for each other,” he said.
“And that makes the win more enjoyable as well.”