Storm steal victory from Knights
The Melbourne Storm have played a patient game to defeat the Newcastle Knights 16-14 at AAMI Park today, after trailing the visitors until the 70th minute.
With Craig Bellamy electing to rest star halfback Cooper Cronk, the Knights took advantage of a perceived lack of respect from the Storm and dominated the first half. Joey Leilua opened the scoring for Newcastle, bouncing off a couple of wide defenders to score the Knights' first.
A follow-up penalty goal converted by Tyrone Roberts saw the Knights 8-0 in front and quelled a normally boisterous AAMI Park crowd, until the Storm struck back through Maurice Blair. Cam Smith's missed conversion meant the Knights stayed four in front.
With momentum back in the Storm's corner, Newcastle produced a try largely against the run of play, with Mullen putting a perfect kick over to the corner for Leilua to score his second. The Knights held a ten-point lead right up until just before halftime, when Sisa Waqa crossed out wide to close the gap. Smith converted to ensure the Knights only took a four point lead into halftime.
What followed for the next thirty minutes was a second half punctuated by errors from both sides, and the Knights constantly being required to hold out the Storm on their own line. They didn't cave until the 70th minute, with Billy Slater turning inside just short of the line and bettering his position to score under the posts. The easy conversion put the Storm in front for the first time in the game, and was a lead they'd hold til the fulltime siren sounded.
The Knights showed plenty of promise, a superb kicking game from Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts ensuring the Knights dominated for large periods and largely nullified the running game of Storm fullback Billy Slater. For the victorious hosts, Cam Smith was again outstanding in both attack and defence.
Next week Newcastle have their first bye of the 2013 season before they host the Titans on a Sunday afternoon in a fortnight. The Storm don't have the luxury of the bye next week - they head to Skilled Park to face the Titans themselves on Monday week.
Melbourne Storm 16 Newcastle Knights 14
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Halftime Score: Newcastle Knights 14-10
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Cameron Smith
2 points - Jarrod Mullen
1 point - Joseph Leilua
MELBOURNE STORM (16)
Tries: Maurice Blair, Sisa Waqa, Billy Slater
Conversions: Cameron Smith (2/3)
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (14)
Tries: Joseph Leilua (2)
Conversions: Tyrone Roberts (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Tyrone Roberts (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Sisa Waqa 3. Will Chambers 4. Maurice Blair 5. Justin O'Neill 6. Gareth Widdop 20. Brett Finch 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 17. Jordan McLean 18. Mitch Garbutt
Knights: 1. Darius Boyd 2. James McManus 3. Dane Gagai 4. Joey Leilua 21. Akuila Uate 6. Jarrod Mullen (c) 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Travis Waddell 10. Willie Mason 11. Robbie Rochow 19. Beau Scott 13. Jeremy Smith
Interchange: 12. Chris Houston 17. Korbin Sims 20. Craig Gower 22. Adam Cuthbertson
Melbourne are back in some form after a May slump - they'll be looking to flex their muscle today against a Knights team that started strongly in 2013 but has now lost five of its past six.
In TEAM NEWS, the Storm have dropped a bombshell with Queensland half Cooper Cronk out. Junior Moors is also omitted from the team named earlier this week. In come #20 Brett Finch at halfback and a debutant in #18 Mitch Garbutt on the bench.
TEAM NEWS - the Knights have confirmed several changes to their lineup. OUT are Kevin Naiqama, Adam Clydsdale, Neville Costigan and the injured David Fa'alogo. Coming into the side are Akuila Uate on the wing, Beau Scott to the second row, Craig Gower and Adam Cuthbertson on the bench. Chris Houston drops back to the bench.
Big chance for the Knights with Cooper Cronk rested for Melbourne - will the visitors take advantage or will Finch fill in comfortably for the Maroons half? Kickoff minutes away.
Storm in their heritage jersey, harking back to their first season in the NRL. Newcastle in white. Knights first ball.
2 min: Good long kick from Mullen to find touch early. Looking to avoid the dangerous Slater kick return.
5 min: Penalty Knights. Earlier Billy Slater came up limping after copping a knee to the thigh. He's okay now.
7 min: TRY NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Scored by Joseph Leilua. Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Joey Leilua heads to the corner, bounces off a defender and scores out wide. Roberts converts.
Newcastle Knights 6-0
9 min: Leilua & Proctor almost come to blows... under the new rules reported this morning that's a no no... so they keep their fists in their pockets. Play on, Storm fifth tackle deep in their own half.
11 min: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Penalty goal attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Finch gives away a penalty, Roberts adds the two points.
Newcastle Knights 8-0
14 min: Melbourne with a panicked fifth tackle, they throw it around hot potato... and then they get six again.
And then a penalty.
14 min: Will Chambers held up over the line on tackle one. Desperate defence from Newcastle.
16 min: TRY MELBOURNE STORM
Scored by Maurice Blair. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful.
A great short ball before the line sees Blair score for the Storm. Cam Smith pushes the conversion attempt wide.
Newcastle Knights 8-4
18 min: Bruising defence from Brett Finch on James McManus as the latter runs the ball out of his own end!
22 min: Newcastle giving the Storm plenty of trouble down the right channel (Storm's left side). Uate looking strong til an error gives the home side a scrum.
24 min: Storm error from Justin O'Neill, trying to force the pass. Knights scrum inside the Storm 40m!
27 min: TRY NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Scored by Joseph Leilua. Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Beautiful cross kick from Jarrod Mullen, takes advantage of Sisa Waqa coming in... Leilua grabs it and scores his second! Roberts converts.
Newcastle Knights 14-4
29 min: Penalty for Newcastle pushes them deep into Storm territory again.
30 min: Knights almost get a try near the dead ball line off a great grubber, but it rolls dead just before the chaser gets to it. Video referee says no. Storm 20m restart
33 min: Storm threatening but not able to find the finishing touch just at the moment. Newcastle defending well.
37 min: TRY MELBOURNE STORM
Scored by Sisa Waqa. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
As they invariably do, the Storm strike just before halftime. Waqa takes advantage of an overlap out wide, Smith converts.
Newcastle Knights 14-10
40 min: HALFTIME - the Storm have struck back but it's the Knights who dominated. They're up by four but will need to lift a gear to keep the hosts out.
40 min: Play resumes at AAMI Park. Storm with it first.
43 min: Newcastle forced into a line dropout by a clever Gareth Widdop chip and chase. Uate puts it dead.
44 min: Error from Dane Gagai attempting an intercept. Storm with a scrum just 20m from the Knights line. Plenty of pressure.
45 min: Jason Ryles thinks he's the playmaker, puts a grubber through that goes dead very quickly. Knights 20m restart.
47 min: Knights force a dropout, shortly after Joey Leilua is over in the corner, but he's tried a one-handed put-down and dropped it. Storm 20m restart.
49 min: Jason Ryles now tries to bomb it. Straight over the dead ball line.
51 min: Uate spills it inside his own half. Storm then get a penalty... they take the tap and play on.
56 min: Mitch Garbutt comes on to make his debut. Game hanging in the balance at the moment...
57 min: Storm line dropout, well forced by the Knights. Slater taken dead, he's looking a bit fragile.
59 min: Silly pass from Korbin Sims, who finds Brett Finch. Oops!
63 min: The Storm's kicking game has been noticeably worse without Cronk. By contrast, Mullen and Roberts have been superb.
65 min: Knights error at the play-the-ball by Travis Waddell. Storm scrum on halfway.
71 min: TRY MELBOURNE STORM
Scored by Billy Slater. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
Well then - a beautiful little inside ball sees Billy Slater cross almost untouched, and better his position. Cam Smith adds the two to put his side in front for the first time today.
Melbourne Storm 16-14
74 min: Errors massively costing Newcastle. McManus away down the touchline but loses it after a tackle from Waqa.
77 min: Newcastle throwing everything at the Storm. A Mullen bomb is defused by Waqa.
80 min: FULLTIME - a tough loss for the Knights, they tried valiantly but it wasn't enough, the Storm's class getting them home despite a poor kicking game.