The Storm sit top of the table entering round 13, which seems to be a common trend over the last few years, and head home for what seems to be an easy match up against the bottom of the table Knights. Both sides come off a bye in round 12, and enter the game needing wins for different reasons.
Last Time Out:
The Storm travelled to Perth to play the Rabbitohs, in a game that seemed set for a predictable result. The Rabbitohs however have made games against the Storm competitive recently, and this would no different. A tight contest saw three tries scored in the first 25 minutes, to have a 10-6 score line favouring the Storm. Melbourne opened the scoring early through Will Chambers in the fifth minute, with Smith making it a 6-0 score. The Rabbits however showed a lot of resilience in defence, but struggled to finish off their opportunities, but and a good run from Sutton levelled the scores after 15 minutes. Melbourne continued to dominate early possession and attacked Souths line intensely, and scored a second through speedster Josh Add-Carr in the 25th minute, who finished off a great kick from Cameron Smith. After halftime, both sides struggled to keep the ball in hand, and the errors mounted up in what was a tense and tight affair. A late try to Suliasi Vunivalu put the game beyond doubt, as Melbourne cashed in through a strong solo effort, making the final score 14-6. South Sydney has been the beholder of ‘good but not good enough’ performances in 2017, and once again they go into this round underperforming. The Storm’s last two performances have been far from perfect, and Bellamy will want to adjust the mistakes his side seem to be making at the moment.
The Knights hosted a disappointing Panthers side in round 13, in which they had a real shot at taking a win and potentially moving off the bottom of the ladder. The game started well for the Knights; with two tries in 10 minutes to take a 12-0 lead. Possession sat squarely with the Knights, as the common trend of poor first halves haunted the Panthers. A penalty before halftime would give Newcastle a 14-0 lead. Penrith entered the second half with a lot of fire power, and try 10 minutes into the second half through Nathan Cleary. From there the tries piled on with four more coming in the space of 24 minutes. All of a sudden the Panthers took a 30-14 lead, and Newcastle were stunned at what they had let go. A 62 percent completion percentage gave an indication to what the second stanza was like for the Knights, and a late consolation try to Peter Mata’utia was met with a silent clap from the crowd. The Knights continue to slide down the ladder in 2017, and what looks to be a parallel of their last two seasons. Penrith on the other hand will be feeling lucky after another near-miss game.
I hate to say it, but the Knights struggle to pose any sort of individual threat in their side. Luckily though, one may make the cut, and that man Dane Gagai will be face to face with Josh Addo-Carr on Friday night. Although they play different positions, both the men will see each other on the same side as the field, as they look to penetrate the opposing defensive line.
Addo-Carr has surpassed any expectation that was set of him at the start of the season. His blinding pace and brilliant physique makes him a nightmare to defend, rivalling James Roberts as arguably the best runner in the game right now, and leads the team in running metres this season with 1567 and second in tries with 8. The Storm for once in a long time has a team that looks complete at every position, with Munster moving to the halves and playing as good as he has at the back.
Gagai has been, unfortunately, burdened with the Knights side the last two seasons, which is a real shame considering his raw talent. Gagai at times has provided the Knights with a heap of attacking power, but this all struggles to impress when you see the lack of production and ferocity the Knights have. The only issue surrounding Gagai really is whether he will be match fit, and if not, the Knights will fall into a huge hole early on.
The Storm, like a few other teams, will feature a side weak from Origin. Nevertheless, it is too hard to see Newcastle even being competitive in this game. The level of class for Melbourne surpasses the Knights beyond any other team in the competition, and an easy win to keep them atop will occur. Storm by 16
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane Interchange: 14. Jordan McLean 15. Joe Stimson 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Slade Griffin 20. Brandon Smith 21. Mark Nicholls 22. Ryley Jacks 23. Jeremy Hawkins
Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Ken Sio 3. Joe Wardle 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Nathan Ross 6. Brock Lamb 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh Starling 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Luke Yates Interchange: 14. Sam Stone 15. Josh King 16. Tyler Randall 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Brendan Elliott 19. Cory Denniss 20. Trent Hodkinson 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon