Storm v Knights review
Billy Slater scored the match winning try to help Melbourne record a 16-14 come-from-behind win and deny Newcastle a huge upset at AAMI Park on Sunday.
At one stage in the first half, the Knights led 14-4 thanks to a brace from centre BJ Leilua. And a first win on Melbourne soil since 2004 was looking a real possibility.
But crucially, Sisa Waqa scored just before half time. Most of the second half was an arm wrestle before Slater broke the deadlock with 10 minutes to go thanks to a brilliant offload by Ryan Hoffman. Cameron Smith scored the go-ahead points and Storm, in front of 12,861 fans, held on for their third straight win.
There were a couple of noticeable pre-match changes to the team. Cooper Cronk was rested for Storm and for Newcastle, Craig Gower, who hadn’t played in the NRL since 2007, made a successful return off the bench after cutting his Super League contract short at the London Broncos.
The Storm was clearly missing the potency and shrewd direction of Cronk. His replacement, Brett Finch, was unable to have the same influence, especially with the kicking game.
Early on, Slater was hindered by a corked thigh but was able to overcome the injury and eventually score the match-winner.
The narrow win means Storm retain second spot on the Premiership ladder with a 10-2 record with a draw. Newcastle are ninth (6-8) but are two wins out of the eight.
The Storm will now be without their Origin stars for two of their next three fixtures. This will give an opportunity for younger players to step up.
Melbourne next play the Titans at Skilled Park on Monday night while the Knights have the bye.