IT was the harshest of lessons.
A 26-point hiding on the big stage in the finals after such a long and difficult seven-year route to get there is a bitter pill to have to swallow after such a tough, drawn out season.
The fear going in was the Knights, coached by Batemans Bay's Adam O'Brien, recent roller-coaster form. They'd lost three of their previous five games by big scorelines.
Their last effort against the Titans on the Gold Coast, that had followed a big win over the Dragons, had left everyone asking the same question. Which Knights side will turn up to ANZ Stadium?
At 14-nil after 12 minutes, it seemed like we had our answer. Two early tries, two sideline conversions from Kalyn Ponga and a penalty goal had Nowra-born Cody Walker and his Souths side on their heels and left Knights fans daring to dream. But as quickly as they had grabbed the ascendancy, they gave it up.
Up until a few weeks ago, centre Enari Tuala was regarded as the Knights bargain buy of the season. He was even being mentioned in dispatches as a smokey for the Queensland Origin side.
But the confidence he had displayed for the majority of the season deserted him when it mattered. He was shown up badly in defence against the Titans last weekend and was found out again badly against the Bunnies.
At 14-0 up and attacking Souths line, it was Tuala who put down a Kalyn Ponga pass as the Knights threatened to make it 20-nil.
A minute later, he missed a routine one-on-one tackle on Souths fullback Corey Allan at the other end of the field that changed the whole momentum of the contest.
Within seven minutes, Souths had crossed twice more with a poor defensive read from the centre contributing to another as well as being unable to stop a Adam Reynolds line drop-out from going into touch.
Newcastle never really wrestled back the momentum from that point. They had it for all of 15 minutes to start the game but never got it back.
Tuala wasn't on his own when it came to mistakes. At 20-14 at halftime, the Knights were still hanging in there but couldn't afford to give their opponents anything in the second 40. Instead, they gift-wrapped opportunity after opportunity.
In the opening few minutes of the second half, Mitch Barnett and Kurt Mann dropped the ball cold under no pressure. Tuala put down another also but then came Ponga's dummy half error midway through the second half close to his own line that proved to be the beginning of the end.
A minute later, Souths prop Tevita Tatola somehow planted the ball over the line from close range with four defenders hanging off him and from that point on, the flood gates opened.
It will take coach Adam O'Brien some time to digest the defeat. He wears his heart on his sleeve and deep down, despite plenty of satisfaction overall, would be gutted it ended like it did. He came into the job as a rookie coach determined to rid the club of a soft under-belly. He has a defensive mantra and hammered his players on the importance of being resilient and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
There were plenty of signs early in the season of him making inroads in that department. Faced with plenty of injury adversity and travel challenges, the squad showed some real fighting qualities. But in more recent times, the soft under-belly has again been exposed too often for his liking.
The challenge for the Knights now after seven of their players experienced finals footy for the first time, is taking advantage of it and learning from the experience. It will be about using the final scoreline and the 46 unanswered points Souths scored and the bitter taste it left as the motivating force for what's ahead next season.
The return of hooker Jayden Brailey and utility Connor Watson from injury and the recruitment of Tyson Frizell will no doubt help the cause.