Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Newcastle Knights 16 v Melbourne Storm 24
at EnergyAustralia Stadium
Referees: Paul Simpkins
In what has ultimately been a sensational game in front of a parochial crowd at Newcastle's EnergyAustralia Stadium, the home side the Newcastle Knights have taken the competition leaders Melbourne right to the wire, losing 24-16.
The home side started well, showing little sign of the capitulation they suffered just 8 days earlier against the Eels. After 8 minutes, winger Anthony Quinn managed to get across the line, giving the Knights an early 4-0 lead. Not to be phased, Melbourne returned serve 4 minutes later with a try to Cooper Cronk in the corner, which after being converted, gave the Storm a 6-4 lead.
Johns evened the ledger with a penalty goal at the 20 minute mark, before Slater scored a beauty of a try to take the Storm up 12-6. A try to Knights winger Brian Carney eight before the break gave us the halftime score of 12-10 in favour of Melbourne.
The second half started solidly, neither team giving too much away. It took 14 minutes for the scoreboard attendant to be troubled - a steamrolling try by Storm reserve Jeremy Smith giving the visitors a handy eight-point lead following Smith's conversion. Lots of back-and-forward play, with opportunities created and then lost by both sides, ensued.
With nine minutes remaining, Newcastle amped up the pressure when Quinn nabbed a double with a touch-and-go try in the corner. Johns converted to make it a two point ball-game, and set up the Knights' faithful for an electrifying finish. The home side looked dangerous until a hap-hazard set of options on tackle five saw a wayward flick pass give Melbourne easy field position, and a final try to Ryan Hoffman shut down the Knights.
The Storm now look certain to collect the minor-premiership prizemoney, while the Knights are teetering on the brink of the eight with only for-and-against their saving grace. They meet South Sydney next week in an attempt to get back into form, while the Storm face the Sharks on Friday Night Football in Melbourne.
Newcastle Knights: 16
Tries: Anthony Quinn(2), Brian Carney
Goals: Andrew Johns 2/4
Melbourne Storm: 24
Tries: Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Billy Slater, Jeremy Smith
Goals: Cameron Smith 4/4
By the Clock:
0 min: NEWS We're underway at EnergyAustralia Stadium on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
8 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Sensational try to the Knights through Quinn. The home side looking very potent early and will definitely challenge Melbourne all day. Johns remains on 2108 points, his conversion missed.
10 min: NEWS Some poor handling costs Newcastle possession in their own half. Melbourne now with the chance to hit straight back.
12 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Melbourne try to Cooper Cronk.
DECISION PENDING... TRY!
13 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Cooper Cronk crosses in the corner for Melbourne. Cam Smith hits it perfectly to convert the try and put the competition leaders in front.
20 min: PENALTY GOAL Newcastle Knights
Johns kicks a penalty goal for the Knights to level the scores.
27 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Slater scores a beauty of a grubber through the Knights line. Smith converts.
32 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Carney scores out wide for Newcastle, and Johns' conversion misses again. Melbourne maintain a two point lead.
HALFTIME: Melbourne Storm 12 Newcastle Knights 10
Sensational game so far and neither team can honestly feel confident that they'll take the two points come 4:15pm. The second half will be a cracker.
41 min: Second half underway.
44 min: VIDEO REF - possible Melbourne try to Matt Geyer. Obstruction being adjudicated on. DECISION PENDING... NO TRY. Penalty to Newcastle.
53 min: NEWS Both teams getting physical in what is so far just a superb game. Neither side is giving too much away in defence, but both are still managing to pull off some brilliant attack.
54 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Brilliant bullocking try for Storm player Jeremy Smith. Easy conversion for Smith puts Melbourne eight points in front.
65 min: NEWS Melbourne holding Newcastle out as the intensity drops slightly at EnergyAustralia. The Knights still throwing what they've got at the Storm but the score remains 18-10 in favour of the competition leaders.
70 min: VIDEO REF - possible Newcastle try to Anthony Quinn in the corner... DECISION PENDING... TRY!
71 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Quinn spins through revolving-door style defence from Melbourne and somehow gets it over the line in the corner. EnergyAustralia Stadium explodes as Johns converts and the scoreline now only has 2 points difference in it.
75 min: NEWS Amazing game so far, and with just five remaining the Storm are holding a slender lead. The Knights form has been incredible today given last weeks loss to Parramatta, and have matched the Storm inch by inch. Newcastle on the attack in their own half at present.
78 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Newcastle panic on tackle 5 and a stupid flick pass gives Melbourne a runaway. On the next play Ryan Hoffman stepped through the defensive line, scoring the try. Cameron Smith converts and the siren sounds.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Cooper Cronk
2 - Clint Newton
1 - Billy Slater