The scoreline wasn't pretty and neither was the sight of backrower Sione Mata'utia being helped from the field with a knee injury that will almost certainly keep him out of the round one squad.
But the Knights' 38-12 trial loss to St George Illawarra at Maitland Sportsground was a long way from the disaster it may appear on paper. As trials tend to do, they can distort reality and the reality is when the two sides had the bulk of their main squads on the field in the opening two quarters, it finished 6-all.
All the second 40 minutes, won convincingly by St George Illawarra 28-6, proved was the Dragons second-stringers and younger players are far more advanced than the Knights.
It calls into question whether depth will be an issue for coach Adam O'Brien. But putting that into context, he did have Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Herman Ese'ese, Bradman Best, Tautua Moga, Phoenix Crossland and Pasami Saulo all unavailable for the game.
But the coach didn't try to paper over any cracks afterwards.
"It was a trial that had everything that I wanted to see and everything that I didn't want to see all in 80 minutes," he said.
That explained the on-field rocket he gave his younger players at the end of the third quarter for their lack of effort and intent when Dragons winger Jordan Pereira scored three of his four tries down the Knights' right edge.
"Really disappointed with some guys in that second stint. The Dragons came out and ran harder and tackled harder," he said. "They had a sprinkling of first-graders still playing but we had a couple as well.
"We had full faith in our younger guys and I think everyone from the region was really excited to see local products playing. But at the same time, local products need to aim up too. I just reminded them of that. Wearing the jumper is one part of it, but you've got some responsibility when you wear it. They're young but at the same time they were similar to the Dragons in age and experience but they outplayed us."
While he wasn't happy with the way the standards dropped after halftime, there was a lot to like about the intent of the first 40 and in particular, the opening quarter.
The Knights got out of the blocks and were more aggressive than the Dragons with props David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti and lock Mitch Barnett dominant, allowing hooker Jayden Brailey to show why the club chased him so hard.
O'Brien also got plenty of value out of his young centres Gehamat Shibasaki and Enari Tuala and winger Hymel Hunt while Tex Hoy at the back didn't find the space he enjoyed in the Nines but had plenty of tough carries.
The attack looked clunky at times but the side went out with a plan not to show too much of the structures they have been working on.
Mata'utia will have scans on his injured knee with medial ligament damage likely but how bad is the question. He had been limping around for several minutes prior to collapsing so it's unclear why he was left out there.