O'Brien lays down defensive law at Knights

Coach Adam O'Brien insists defence remains king, despite his disappointment with the Knights attack.
Coach Adam O'Brien insists defence remains king, despite his disappointment with the Knights attack.

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien has refused to make apologies for the fierce devotion to defence that might have cost his team in Sunday's loss to Parramatta.

The Knights blew a supreme chance at upsetting the NRL ladder leaders when they faltered over numerous opportunities at McDonald Jones Stadium.

While O'Brien was pleased with limiting the Eels to two tries, he was left to rue not making the most of a whopping 39-21 advantage in plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone.

"We showed some toughness as a group defensively," he said.

"I wasn't happy with the attack, but we keep banging on about defence to them so it was going to come back and get me at some stage."

The rookie coach was unhappy with his side's skill level, particularly in the second half when they were guilty of poor passing and execution in good-ball sets.

But while conceding he would look into honing the Knights attack, O'Brien had no regrets over his desire to turn his team into a defensive force.

"It'll always be weighted towards the defence," he said.

"I'll try and find something. I understand that we had enough ball tonight to win that footy game and I need to be able to allow that in our training.

"But I stand by what I said - we need to be a good defensive team.

"Defence wins premierships. It's fact."

O'Brien also called out his team for not playing to the whistle during the decisive moment that led to Eels skipper Clint Gutherson setting up the match-clinching try.

Knights players stopped when, down two points, captain Mitchell Pearce was penalised for a high shot on Gutherson, who took a quick tap and ran downfield.

While it was unclear whether Pearce was trying to call a captain's challenge, O'Brien said his defensive line should never have stopped retreating.

"I think that's what (Mitchell) was trying to do. I'm not sure," he said.

"Anyway, the other guys needed to keep moving. It's taught to you as a kid, isn't it. Play to the whistle."

Australian Associated Press