Knights 12 Cowboys 32

Unstoppable ... Johnathan Thurston.

Unstoppable ... Johnathan Thurston. Photo: Getty Images

Wayne Bennett will instruct his players to take a dive to milk penalties, claiming the rules of the game leave him with no choice.

MATCH STATS

Newcastle are languishing in 12th spot on the ladder after yet another loss, this time to North Queensland. If the Raiders touch up Parramatta today - a distinct possibility - they could drop another rung.

Stranglehold ... Adam Cuthbertson of the Knights is tackled.

Stranglehold ... Adam Cuthbertson of the Knights is tackled. Photo: Getty Images

The result was overshadowed by Bennett's post-game comments on diving. The issue is already a sensitive one in the NRL after Cronulla's Mark Taufua was accused of staying down to earn a penalty on Monday. Darius Boyd was taken high by Johnathan Thurston, and Bennett said it was the third incident in two weeks - Alex McKinnon and Joel Edwards were the others - where his players were felled and the officials took no action.

''One of the things I'm pretty strong about in this game is that you don't lay down when you get hit in the head,'' Bennett said. ''But we've had three guys taken out in two weeks and we haven't got one penalty.

''So I'm going to encourage them to lay on the ground now and go to the video ref and they can make a decision. The game doesn't want it, I don't want it but if they don't want to do something about it, I'll give them an option. Edwards last week and McKinnon. Darius tonight. Mullen was taken out in the back play.

Willie Mason of the Knights charges at the Cowboys's defence.

Willie Mason of the Knights charges at the Cowboys's defence. Photo: Getty Images

''They've got a choice now.''

Bennett was also concerned about a late hit Jarrod Mullen copped. Again, no action was taken against North Queensland players. Whether Bennett's comments were a ploy to deflect attention away from the form of his players is a mystery. Certainly, they are not living up to expectations. They brought in Nathan Tinkler. Then Bennett. They even brought back Willie Mason. And while they competed with the Cowboys, there is no papering over a four-from-10 start to the year. Not that Bennett is panicking.

''I've come here for four years and I didn't think this was going to be a quick fix,'' he said. ''If I was looking for a quick fix I'd be doing things differently. I know where I'm going, I know what I'm going to do. I've just got to get everybody behind me. They're all working hard to do that.''

Thurston was the difference between the teams. As Origin approaches, it seems he cannot be stopped. After watching Matt Prior's attempt, the Knights tried more conventional means. But it was to no avail. He had a hand in all but one of his side's five tries. Having pulled the opposition's pants down, he then pulled down his own. The game stopped and 18,191 fans waited patiently as he adjusted a strap that, apparently, stops him from lifting his shoulder too high. Rugby league has its own wardrobe malfunction.

NSW hopeful Tariq Sims didn't further his selection chances but he had an excuse.

''I think he'll do the job [in Origin],'' Cowboys coach Neil Henry said.

''He was a bit quiet tonight but he did have the flu and his energy level was down.

''He was disappointed in his effort tonight, he just couldn't last out there.

''That's why we brought him off.

''I'm sure he will figure somewhere in the [NSW] 17.''

NORTH QUEENSLAND 32 (A Graham 2 G Cooper M Morgan R Thompson tries J Thurston 6 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 12 (C Houston J Sau tries T Roberts 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 18,191.