Knights' NRL form concern for O'Brien

Knights coach Adam O'Brien is not looking too far ahead other than their clash with the Titans.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien is not looking too far ahead other than their clash with the Titans.

Newcastle's NRL form over the past month has been patchy enough that a chance to play a home final for the first time in 14 years is not a motivational carrot.

Coach Adam O'Brien simply needs them to find form against Gold Coast on Saturday.

Leading into their first finals series in seven seasons, the Knights have either flogged sides or been on the receiving end of a hiding for the past four weeks.

It started with a shock 36-6 loss to the Warriors in round 16, and has led to the Knights scoring 98 points and conceding 73 against Cronulla, Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra.

Both the Warriors and the Roosters racked up a score on the finals-bound Knights, who then ran in seven tries against both the Sharks and Dragons.

Their last back-to-back performance was in round 15 with a scrappy 12-0 win over North Queensland, a week after beating Manly 26-24.

It's a dodgy patch of results that O'Brien hopes has been put to bed after a big win against the Dragons last weekend.

"All I can go on is how we've prepared," he said on Thursday.

"We've had a light session because of the five-day turnaround but we've had some good meetings, we've identified it.

"I've got to have confidence in how we've prepared.

"They understand you want to go into the back-end of the season with momentum.

"I'm really, really mindful of... we look too far ahead, we run into the car in front of us."

Ironically, the Titans have not lost a game across the same stretch of time.

The Titans are on a four-game winning streak and a victory would have them equal the club record set in 2008 and 2010.

In the past four weeks they've upset the Dragons, Canterbury and Brisbane, as well as a powerful win over Manly last week - their equal biggest score in club history.

"It'd be terrific for us (to win five in a row) but we're going up in class," coach Justin Holbrook said.

"We're facing a top-eight side that's obviously desperate to win a home semi final. I think that's great for us.

"There's obviously a couple of other NRL sides who have got the luxury of playing top eight sides that are resting a lot of players but we're going to be facing a side that is keen to win to get a home semi.

"(It will) be a great test for us and I'm really looking forward to it."

A win against the Titans would assure the Knights sixth place on the ladder and a final at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time since 2006.

STATS THAT MATTER

*Adam O'Brien is the first Newcastle coach to see his side reach the Finals in his first full season as coach since Michael Hagan in 2001, who won the Premiership.

*Knights have won all 11 matches when leading at half-time but have won none of the eight when trailing or level at half-time.

*Anthony Don has scored eight tries in his past 10 matches against Newcastle, including four in the past three.

Australian Associated Press