The Newcastle Knights return home to McDonald Jones Stadium after miraculously winning against the Parramatta Eels to record their first win away since 2015. The Knights now look to win four games in a row against the competitions best the Melbourne Storm this Saturday afternoon. The Knights over recent years have been a bogey side for the Storm and with the confidence of their consecutive wins they will turn up to try spoil the away sides run into the finals.
LAST TIME OUT
In the last round the Knights were matched with taking down a Parramatta team emerging as a possible top four contenders in the finals. The Eels were on a six-game winning streak before a resilient Newcastle team showed up, with their last away win two years prior the Knights posted two quick tries and led 12 nil in the opening eight minutes. Eels turned around with a try soon after to stand-in fullback Will Smith from a bat back close to the line with the score going into the half 12-10 to the away side. The Knights young halfback Brock lamb created more opportunities for his side and was no doubt one of the finest on field alongside fullback Dane Gagai who was at his tackle breaking best. Lamb threw a lovely short ball to find a hole for second rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon to break through scoring with the halfback soon after finding himself a try taking the line on in the 60th minute. Before the end of the game Lamb slotted a field goal to give the Knights three wins in a row with a 29-10 result.
The Melbourne Storm were at home last round in one of the most anticipated matches of the season against the Sydney Roosters. The result would in many viewers eyes determine the minor premiership with only three more rounds to go. The clash was a close encounter with the Storm being awarded penalties with Captain Cameron Smith taking to his kicking edging in front 4-0 before a controversial penalty try was awarded to Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu after being tackled without the ball by opposing winger Latrell Mitchell close to the line. Soon after half time the Roosters held on and were able to find Mitch Aubusson to crash over and tie the scores up 12 all. Both teams defensively great on their line, the away side pushed for a field goal in the 74th minute through Luke Keary to lead by 1 point. Like most of Storms performances they never seem to go away even when down against some of the best teams, a last ditch attempt close to the line instead of taking a field goal found Cronk put on a short ball to forward Joe Stimson to clutch the match and crash through the defence for a 16-13 win to the Storm.
The key battle in this fixture between the Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights on Saturday afternoon is the matchup of the fullbacks Billy Slater and Dane Gagai. The Storm will be looking to finish strong with the remaining games heading into finals and grab the minor premiership, while the Knights are eager to get a fourth straight win after getting their first win away since 2015 to the Storm. Standout seasons from both Queensland representative players Slater and Gagai will clash and could be the difference in their teams winning.
The Knights fullback Dane Gagai leaving to South Sydney has had a career best season, winning the best player for the State of Origin series and having huge impact through Newcastle’s tough losses and being best on field for their first away win this year. Gagai has been electric pushing through gaps with his speed or breaking tackles from players to score close to the line. His skill has gone to another level winning games from his solo performances in the limited games Knights have won to grabbing tries at the death in origin. The Newcastle fullback has 8 try assists, 9 line breaks and 129 tackle breaks over the year in which has been hard for the side but his effort in each match is second to none and he’s has formed into a top tier player from the 2017 season. Dane Gagai will need to be heavily involved if the Knights are to conjure up a miraculous win against the top team, using his speed and strong fending ability to break the Storm defence to create points for himself and other teammates.
The return of Billy Slater this year has been nothing short of spectacular, the Storm fullback has been at his best and could also possibly be one of his most memorable seasons in his career. Slater having injuries two years in a row had not many people thinking he could get back to being one of the best modern era fullbacks, Billy has trained his hardest to get his body capable of taking strong contact and maintain his powerful speed. Having a magnificent run this year he has added kicking to his repertoire which has been damaging sides through the competition with many of the 15 try assists he has produced from kicks. The last time these two sides met Slater had a game to remember with 2 tries, 2 try assists and running 165 metres, the fullback will want to create the same performance to get a convincing with for the Melbourne side.
This matchup has Storm in 1st place playing the Knights who are close to the wooden spoon for a third straigh year. Many would think it would be an easy game for the Storm who have been settled at the top for majority of the season, but playing at McDonald Jones Stadium the Newcastle fans really help the Knights side in playing better and four of their five wins have come at playing at home. The Storm side has been touch and go the past month not playing the clinical and crisp footy as they were earlier in the year, however they will always find a way to win. The Knights will be spirited and be nuisance to the Storm side as they have in previous years, however the minor premiership is for the Melbourne team to lose for themselves with three rounds left they will no doubt look to improve and build momentum into the finals with a better performance and the return of their five eighth Cameron Munster which will have them drive for a near perfect game.
Storm by 16
Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm, Saturday 19th August, 3pm at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Ken Sio 3. Joe Wardle 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jamie Buhrer 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata’utia (c) 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Danny Levi 15. Luke Yates 16. Sam Stone 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Jack Cogger 19. Mickey Paea 20. Brendan Elliot 21. Chanel Mata’utia
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Joe Stimson 13. Dale Finucane 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Jahrome Hughes 16. Kenneath Bromwich 17. Slade Grffin 18. Tohu Harris 19. Brodie Croft 20. Robbie Rochow 21. Nate Myles