Melbourne v Newcastle preview

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Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights Saturday 7:35pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Melbourne miss out on a return home for the first time in months, forced to host the Newcastle Knights in Queensland.

AAMI Park was host it's first NRL match since the 30th of April, but sadly the growing COVID cases in the southern capital have seen the Storm fly up to join the other 15 clubs north of the Tweed.

Newcastle face Melbourne after a well earned week off, after they dismantle the North Queensland Cowboys by 38 points in Kalyn Ponga's return. The star fullback was one of their better players in that victory and he'll need to be at his best on Saturday night if the Knights are to topple the current league leaders.

Ponga's return was much needed for the Knights who were languishing in 12th place before the victory over the Cowboys after they lost four of their six games in the Queensland fullback's absence. The Knights now occupy ninth place as they remain a win ahead of the 10th placed Titans whilst sitting level on points with the Sharks who remain in eighth place. A win for Newcastle would give them a great chance of moving into the top eight in the near future as the Sharks battle for consistency and the seventh placed Dragons struggle with suspensions.

Whilst Newcastle push for a top eight spot, the Melbourne Storm continue their charge for another minor premiership as they continue to convincingly deal with any opponent that gets thrown in front of them. The Storm haven't lost since round three when they lost to the Panthers by two points. Since then, they've won 13 matches on the trot, scoring 40 points or more in 11 of those matches and winning 11 of the 13 fixtures by 20 points or more. The league leaders have named the same side that defeated the Sydney Roosters by 46 points in their last outing, but don't be surprised if one of their several Origin players are rested after Wednesday night's third and final Origin fixture.

Meanwhile, the Knights will be ecstatic to welcome back Tyson Frizell and Daniel Saifiti after returning from their respective injuries. As a result, Mitch Barnett moves to lock with Sauaso Sue dropping out of the squad. They'll be hoping that Kalyn Ponga is ready to go after Wednesday night's Origin clash as he is the key to any potential victory for the Knights.

Last meeting: Round 12 2020 - Storm 26 Knights 16

Who to watch: If recent performances are anything to go by, the Melbourne Storm will be a treat to watch as they've played scintillating football for the majority of the season. A key matchup will be the battle of the two fullbacks who are both involved in Wednesday night's State of Origin in some capacity. Newcastle fullback, Kalyn Ponga will line up in the number one jersey for the Maroons whilst Storm fullback Nicho Hynes soaks in the experience of being apart of this incredible Blues squad. His selection has been well deserved after he took the competition alight after the injury to Melbourne's number one fullback, Ryan Papenhuyzen. The 25-year-old has scored five tries this season whilst assisting an incredible 14 tries in the same number of appearances. Hynes has also managed to average a career high 131 run metres per game throughout this season. His opposite number was immense in the Knights victory over the Cowboys as scored two tries, assisted two tries and ran for 212 metres in an incredible performance. The Queenslander has only played six games this season but has made his presence felt, scoring six tries and assisting a further six. The 23-year-old can be a devastating ball runner on his day and he's shown some of that form so far this year, averaging 162 run metres per game whilst breaking 5.2 tackles each week. Hopefully these two young guns can light up the field - wherever the game is played.

The favourite: Melbourne are the favourites for this clash with the Newcastle Knights and for good reason as they're currently in the midst of a 13-game win streak in which only one side (Gold Coast) has come close to defeating the Storm. The Knights have struggled for consistency this season and will need the very best from the likes of Ponga and Mitchell Pearce if they're to come away with a result.

My tip: Melbourne are expected to continue their win streak this weekend and I believe they'll give their loyal fans something to cheer for as they attend their first league game in months. Melbourne are to continue their charge to another minor premiership. Melbourne by 16.

1. Nicholas Hynes 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 19. Dean Ieremia 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Aaron Booth 16. Chris Lewis 17. Aaron Pene 22. Jordan Grant 18. Isaac Lumelume

1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Kurt Mann 4. Enari Tuala 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Jake Clifford 22. Phoenix Crossland 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Jayden Brailey 15. David Klemmer 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Connor Watson 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones 18. Jack Johns 20. Tex Hoy

Referees: Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Jon Stone, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;

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