No Cameron Smith was not a problem for the Storm, as their explosive attack produced eight tries to the Knights’ mere two with a 40-12 victory. Slater put on a powerhouse in front of his home crowd, in arguably his most complete performance of the season.
Origin proves no headache for Super Storm
Along with the Broncos and Cowboys in recent years, the Storm has always been heavily impacted by State of Origin. Last season they managed to win all three games post an Origin match, and that run continued in fine form on Friday night.
Melbourne struck early on with a try within 2 minutes, Cronk placing a brilliant chip kick to Suliasi Vunivalu. After 20 minutes, possession weighted heavily to the Storm with 64 percent, and the Knights failed to attack Melbourne’s line with no play within their 20 metre line. The Storm continued to fuel their attack with great defensive pressure, and by the 20 minute mark it was already 16-0 with Billy Slater scoring and assisting in two of the first three tries.
Melbourne forced a lot of mistakes in Newcastle’s own half, and made sure they, at least most of the time, got repeat sets out of their attacking chances. Known as a defensive orientated side, the Storm on Friday hit another gear and may be in a prime position for another minor premiership.
Slater prove his worth for Origin
Billy Slater is one of the greatest fullbacks ever, and his performances in 2017 have been great so far. With an Origin spot that wasn’t granted, Slater went on a tear to show his worth against the Knights.
Slater’s pass to Addo-Carr to score in the 14th minute resembled his overall impact on the game. Slater later scored one of his own, cheekily stealing the ball from Brock Lamb and scoring close to the posts, off a pinpoint Cronk grubber. His running game was also hugely impressive, finishing off great passes to gain chunks of metres, and ended up with 165 in total, second in the game overall. Slater remained a consistent threat on attack, pushing off players and passing the ball effectively out wide to create and motivate attacking opportunities. Slater hadn’t scored in front of his home crowd since round 15 2014, so it was extra special or him to respond in this game the way he did.
Kevin Walters may need to rethink his side for Origin II, and moving Boyd to the wing with Gagai in the centres looks like a logical move.
Knights fail to compete
The Knights season is slowly becoming a lot like 2015 and 2016. They looked good at the start of the season; competitive games and a win or two here and there, Newcastle looked on the up already. After Friday night though, it is slowly looking worse and worse.
Newcastle went through 70 minutes without being tackled within Melbourne’s 20 metre line. Aside from Ken Sio’s great try, set up by a good run from Dane Gagai, the Knights had nearly nothing to show for most of the game. Their second try came off an uncharacteristic mistake from Billy Slater, and was later cancelled out by a late try from Cheyse Blair in the 79th minute. Newcastle had only managed to gain 500 metres by 60 minutes, 700 less than Melbourne, and overall 926 by the end of the game, 800 less than Melbourne. On top of that, 67 percent of the ball was played in Newcastle’s half in the game, and Melbourne used that to their advantage immensely.
Stats don’t lie, and although Melbourne was near perfect on Friday, they were met with a weak opposition. It’s a slow ride to the end of the season sadly for the Knights, and it is upsetting to see a team fail to compete week in and week out.
Baby Smith reminds us of Melbourne’s depth
Cameron Smith sat out the game for a rest after Origin, and rightfully so, no issues came about. Slade Griffin started in place of Smith and played solid out of the ruck early on. But what was most impressive was the hooker from the interchange, Brandon Smith, the New Zealand-born youngster.
Brandon is the man tipped to take over Cameron’s starting spot once he shuffles off into retirement. His work out of the ruck was solid, setting up many plays to help Cronk pull off one of the best kicking games in the season thus far. Smith nearly scored a try but fell to temptation when he was penalised for a double movement. Later on however, he managed to score, muscling over with multiple defenders on his back.
A solid performance for a future star, Melbourne’s class and depth truly showed though with Brandon Smith’s performance.
Tries: Vunivalu (2) (2m, 50m), Addo-Carr (14m), Kaufusi (17m), Slater (2) (43m, 53m), Smith (62m), Blair (79m)
Goals: Munster 4/8
Tries: Sio (28m), Fitzgibbon (72m)
Goals: Lamb 2/2