The Melbourne Storm have come from behind to defeat the Newcastle Knights 23-10 in front of a 26,822 crowd at Hunter Stadium.
A dominant second half performance from the Storm spearheaded by superstars Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk got the Storm over the line after a poor start to the match from the defending premiers.
A lopsided penalty count coupled by a flat performance by the Storm saw the Knights dominate the opening half hour of the match but it was to little avail until the 25th minute when BJ Leilua finally cracked the Storm defence to score on the back-to-back penalties. Kurt Gidley failed to convert the try.
A perfectly waited Jarrod Mullen chip kick to a racing Akuilla Uate who scored in the 32nd minute extended the Knights' lead. Gidley was unsuccessful with the boot again.
The Storm looked flat when they received their first penalty only a minute and a half from half-time, but their powerhouse utulity Jordan McLean was unstoppable close to the line and scored under the posts. Cameron Smith missed the conversion, keeping the Storm four-points behind at the break.
An early penalty in the second 40 placed the Storm right on the attack and once again they converted it into points this time through Smith who added the extras to give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
Gidley leveled the score in the 55th minutes after the Knights receive a penalty from right in front.
Some brilliance from Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater handed the lead back to the Storm in the 64th minute with Slater scoring of a pin-point Cronk chip-bomb.
A mistake from Robbie Rochow saw the Knights on the attack in the 71st minute, and Cronk wasted no time, kicking a field goal on only the third tackle.
Bryan Norrie celebrated his 150th match with a try in the final minute of the game after Smith put him through a gap. Smith added the extras.
The Storm will host the Eels, next weekend for an opportunity to guarantee their spot in the top fur while the Knights will head to Townsville to take on the North Queensland Cowboys.
Newcastle Knights 10 Melbourne Storm 23
Venue: Newcastle International Sports Centre
Halftime Score: Newcastle Knights 8-4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Ryan Hinchcliffe
2 points - Cameron Smith
1 point - Jarrod Mullen
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (10)
Tries: Joseph Leilua, Akuila Uate
Conversions: Kurt Gidley (0/2)
Penalty Goals: Kurt Gidley (1/1)
MELBOURNE STORM (23)
Tries: Jordan McLean, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Bryan Norrie
Field Goals: Cooper Cronk (1/1)
Conversions: Cameron Smith (3/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Interchange: 12. Chris Houston 14. Kurt Gidley 15. David Fa'alogo 20. Korbin Sims
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Sisa Waqa 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin O'Neill 21. Maurice Blair 6. Brett Finch 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Bryan Norrie 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Ryan Hinchcliffe
Interchange: 14. Jason Ryles 15. Tohu Harris 16. Jordan McLean 17. Kenneath Bromwich 18. Slade Griffin
Scored by Joseph Leilua. Conversion attempt by Kurt Gidley unsuccessful.
TRY! The Knights spread it wide to the right creating an overlap and BJ Leilua scores in the corner. Conversion attempt by Kurt Gidley is unsuccessful.
Newcastle Knights 4-0
Kade Snowden makes an unforced error.
Kade Snowden spills the ball and the Storm will get a scrum 15 out from the Newcastle line.
Scored by Akuila Uate. Conversion attempt by Kurt Gidley unsuccessful.
TRY! Mullen chips to a racing Uate who scores in the right corner. Conversion attempt by Kurt Gidley is unsuccessful again.
Newcastle Knights 8-0
Scored by Jordan McLean. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful.
TRY! Jordan McLean muscles his way over the try line from right in front after a poor set from the Storm. Cameron Smith misses a simple conversion to finish off the first half.
Newcastle Knights 8-4
Scored by Cameron Smith. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
TRY! Cameron Smith scores on the back of a great run from Ryan Hinchcliffe. Smith converts his own try.
Melbourne Storm 10-8
Penalty goal attempt by Kurt Gidley successful.
No try! Penalty to the Knights and Cronk narrowly escapes being sin binned. Knights opt to go for the two. Gidley kicks his first goal of the match to level the scores.
Joseph Leilua makes an unforced error.
Leilua is pinned for a forward pass and the Storm are off the hook.
Scored by Billy Slater. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
TRY! Cooper Cronk and and Billy Slater are clinical as Slater plucks a pefectly waited Cronk chip bomb out of the air and scores. Smith adds the extras.
Melbourne Storm 16-10
Kenneath Bromwich makes an unforced error.
Knights will get an opportunity to hit right back after Kenneth Bromwich loses the ball.
Justin O'Neill makes an unforced error.
Billy Slater cleans up a Mullen kick in the field of play but O'Neill knocks on moments later and the Knights are back on the attack.
Robbie Rochow makes an unforced error.
Storm will feed a scrum 40 out from the Knights' line after a knock on from Robbie Rochow.
Field goal attempt by Cooper Cronk successful.
Cronk kicks a field goal on the third tackle.
Melbourne Storm 17-10
Scored by Bryan Norrie. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
TRY! Smith puts Byan Norrie into a small gap and the prop has enough size to muscle his way through and score. Smith adds the extras and that will be the ball game. The Storm have defeated the Knights in front 26,822 at Newcastle.
Melbourne Storm 23-10