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Storm gunning for six in a row as Knights look to bounce back from shock loss.
In a year that has been like no other, one thing that hasn't changed is the Melbourne Storm's ability to adjust to all that is thrown at them and continue to hum along like the well-oiled machine they are.
There were initial concerns in the early weeks of the comp restarting after a couple of losses, but they have since strung together five wins on the bounce including a couple of clinical attacking displays in downing the Titans and Broncos over the past fortnight.
Calling the Sunshine Coast home for what looks to be the remainder of the season, the Storm will host their second match at Sunshine Coast Stadium when the Knights roll into town on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Craig Bellamy has been forced into a couple of changes following his sides drubbing of the Broncos last week with centre Brenko Lee (broken hand) and utility back Paul Momirovski (torn finger tendon) picking up injuries.
Marion Seve will replace Lee in the starting side with Tom Eisenhuth returning from a hamstring injury on the bench. New Zealand test prop Jesse Bromwich has been named in the reserves as he looks to return from a knee injury.
Whilst on the subject of injuries, the Knights have been left reeling from the season-ending injuries to Andrew McCullough (hamstring) and Connor Watson (Achilles) during their shock loss at home to the Bulldogs last week.
Rookie rake Chris Randall has been named to make his second appearance in the top grade after debuting against the Panthers in round three. Another second-gamer replaces Watson on the bench with young half Phoenix Crossland named in the utility position.
In a further blow for Adam O'Brien's men, back-rower Sione Mata'utia has been ruled out after limping off with a knee injury late in last week's contest. Veteran Aidan Guerra will slot onto the right edge with Josh King earning his first game of the year on the bench.
After being favoured to break a win-loss sequence dating back to round four last week, the Knights will be desperately hoping that run now continues as they look to bounce back from one of their poorest performances of the year.
If they are to be any chance against the Storm juggernaut, they will need to improve their kicking game substantially after another poor performance with the boot last week.
Despite running for over 300 metres more than their opposition and breaking 20 more tackles, they failed to build any pressure on their opposition, an area of their game that has so far held them back from being a genuine top four team.
Last meeting: Round 5 2020 - Knights 12 Storm 26
Who to watch: A victim of both his utility value and being stuck behind a couple of legends of the game at Melbourne, Jahrome Hughes looks to have nailed down his role in the Storm setup. Playing much of the year at fullback in 2019, Hughes was switched to halfback for the business end of the year and has made the number seven his own this year with some impressive performances. Despite not been a traditional half, Hughes has racked up 9 try assists for the year, but his footwork in and around tired defenders remains one of his greatest strengths resulting in a couple of nice individual tries in recent weeks.
Despite Knights fans being left shattered by the losses of McCullough and Watson, they were quickly given renewed hope as they remembered the cracking debut of Chris Randall against the Panthers in round three who broke the record for most tackles on debut with 71. Only given a train and trial contract when Coach O'Brien arrived in the Hunter for pre-season, Randall worked the joint down to earn a development contract for the season and now has the opportunity to make the number nine his own for the remainder of 2020.
The favourite: The Storm are heavily favoured to continue their winning ways against a Knights outfit struggling for consistency.
My tip: This looked an enticing contest before the Knights were rolled last weekend and perhaps the Novocastrians were guilty of having one eye on this contest. In their favour, they have done a good job of bouncing back from poor performances this year but even so, they will need a massive turnaround in some key areas of their game if they are to trouble one of the premiership contenders. Storm by 10.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 16. Tom Eisenhuth 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 21. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 19. Nicholas Hynes
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Enari Tuala 3. Tautau Moga 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Chris Randall 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Josh King 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Herman Ese'ese
Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;