Newcastle may not have a chance of playing finals but they can impact on the finals chances of other teams and have continued to do so.
Newcastle insist they are not frustrated they have left their best form until their finals hopes had been extinguished after knocking off another top-eight team during their current purple patch of form.
The Knights held on to beat an ill-disciplined New Zealand Warriors side 28-22 in front of 12,733 fans at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Newcastle led 14-0 in the first half and then 26-14 with just over 10 minutes remaining but were forced to endure several Warriors comebacks.
Boom rookie Sione Mata’utia scored his first NRL hat-trick and formed a dominant left-side attacking partnership with powerful centre Joseph Leilua.
The Knights have now won six of their last eight games, including beating four current top-eight teams.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett said his players had grown in confidence over the past eight weeks, but didn’t regret leaving their run too late.
“We may well (fall just short of the eight), but we’ve just got to live with that,” Bennett said.
“(The players) are enjoying their footy and they’re playing great. If we don’t beat ourselves up about it, it will be good.
“We’ve beaten a lot of top eight teams as well in this eight-week period.”
Knights skipper Kurt Gidley said the team’s execution has clicked into gear during the last two months.
“When you’re down on confidence, you’re not quiet throwing your passes as crisp, you’re not talking as much … but as you start winning a few games, you’re more confident in everything you do and you’re talking more and your effort is up, so all those little things stack up to be a lot better performance.”
Gidley said he was just happy to be winning again and that they didn’t fall victim to a Newcastle-like comeback, one week after staging one. “I’d be more frustrated if we were getting beat still,” Gidley said.
“It’s just the effort and the character we’re showing during the games, those last five or 10 minutes we had blokes running from side to side, out of position, because we didn’t want to lose it, we weren’t prepared to lose it like Melbourne did last week.
“It rips your heart out if you get beat in those last couple of minutes.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said his team failed to sustain pressure and poor discipline constantly let them down.
“Every time we started to build some momentum we came up with an error or gave away a penalty,” McFadden said.
“Our discipline was really poor today and that shows in the penalty count, we gave up nine penalties and I don’t think they made an error in the second half either, so they certainly capitalised on any ball they had.”
The loss places the Warriors in a precarious position, sitting in eighth position with the likes of Parramatta, Brisbane and St George Illawarra hot on their tail, and with two of their three finishing matches against fellow top eight sides Sydney Roosters and Penrith, a finals berth is far from certain.