After almost upsetting the Roosters, the Newcastle Knights take on a Melbourne Storm side hoping to stay in touch with the top four at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a dominant win over the Eels, the Knights came incredibly close to pulling off one of the upsets of the year but ultimately fell just two points short against the Roosters. They have fixed up their defence over the last two weeks but face a stiff test against a Storm team that is capable of scoring plenty of points.
They started slow against the Broncos but came home strong on the back of impressive performances from Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster. They’re without Slater again this week so the pressure will once more be on those two. Smith, in particular, is so important to this team so the fact he is there through the Origin period is a huge boost for the side as they look to boost their premiership credentials.
Luke Yates comes onto the bench for Jamie Buhrer who suffered a knee injury last week in the only change for the Knights.
Billy Slater has been officially ruled out with Jahrome Hughes expected to take his place at fullback. Curtis Scott and Will Chambers return at centre after missing last week with a suspension. Kenny Bromwich comes into the starting side at lock as Tim Glasby moves to prop to cover for Jesse Bromwich.
The Knights and Storm met back in Round Six where the Knights were heavily outclassed in a 40-14 flogging. The Knights should be better this week in front of a big home crowd and full of confidence after two strong performances. They sit just two wins outside the top eight and a win this weekend would keep them right in the hunt for a finals appearance.
The Storm have not yet reached the level of play we’ve come to expect from them in previous years, with ill-discipline regularly letting them down. At their best, they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the competition but they need to get rid of those silly errors that are still plaguing their game.
For the Knights, they need to carry their much improved defence over the last fortnight into this clash. The halves pairing in Connor Watson and Jack Cogger need to direct their team around the park to take the pressure off Kalyn Ponga and let him play with freedom.
With Slater ruled out, we will unfortunately miss a mouth-watering battle between the arguably the greatest fullback of all time against the best young star in the game in Kalyn Ponga.
We still get to see an interesting battle between Ponga and Slater’s replacement in Jahrome Hughes. Huges has impressed in Slater’s absence, constantly looking threatening with ball in hand. Ponga has already established himself as one of the best players in the competition and a strong performance here will make it almost impossible for Maroons coach Kevin Walters to leave him out of the team for Game Two next weekend.
The Knights have conceded a whopping 113 points in their last three matches at McDonald Jones Stadium, something they will need to fix quickly against a dangerous Storm attack.
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Corey Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Josh King, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra
Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Luke Yates, 17 Jacob Lillyman
Reserves: 18 Nick Meaney, 19 Sam Stone, 20 Brock Lamb, 21 Brent Naden
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Tim Glasby, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Kenny Bromwich
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Jahrome Hughes
Reserves: 18 Young Tonumaipea, 19 Sam Kasiano, 20 Patrick Kaufusi, 21 Cheyse Blair
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 17 June
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
It should be closer than the Round Six thrashing, but the Storm are just a better side right now, boasting talent and experience all across the park. The Knights have shown signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks, but still rely too heavily on Kalyn Ponga, and to beat a side like Melbourne you need a complete team performance.
Storm by 14