In what is shaping up to be a tremendous battle, the ever reliable Melbourne Storm play hosts to a Newcastle Knights team looking to make it seven in a row.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Following a dynamic performance against a depleted New Zealand Warriors in round 13, the Storm will be determined to secure victory to move four points clear of the second placed South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Following numerous enthralling victories over the past two months, the Knights will be looking to carry their momentum into this clash and topple a full-strength Storm. A victory on Saturday afternoon could potentially elevate the Knights as high as third on the NRL competition ladder.
The Storm’s winning line-up remains unchanged for this clash.
Melbourne Storm squad: 1 Jahrome Hughes, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Marion Seve, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Ryan Papenhuyzen. Reserves: 18 Justin Olam, 19 Tui Kamikamica, 20 Tino Faasumaleaui, 21 Sandor Earl.
The return of electric fullback Kalyn Ponga has resulted in Kurt Mann shifting back to five-eighth. After being omitted last week in favour of Pasami Saulo, Josh King has been recalled to the interchange bench.
Newcastle Knights squad: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Hymel Hunt, 4 Jesse Ramien, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Kurt Mann, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 James Gavet, 9 Connor Watson, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14 Jamie Buhrer, 15 Herman Ese’ese, 16 Josh King, 17 Stone Mata’utia. Reserves: 18 Mason Lino, 19 Pasami Saulo, 20 Jacob Saifiti, 21 Aidan Guerra.
HEAD TO HEAD
Craig Bellamy’s men will no doubt be eager to replicate their 92% completion rate (round 13) in this match. For the Storm to expose the Knights, it is imperative that forwards Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Dale Finucane make it their intent to tire and expose the Knights’ centre field defence with charging runs. Securing field position and providing their talented backline with a licence to roam is required if the Storm are to put a halt to the Knights’ success.
For the Knights, nullifying the effectiveness of the Storm’s agile backline is vital. Ensuring to smother their opponents in every tackle and restrict their metres gained will likely reduce the Storm’s ruck speed and limit the damage that their backline can muster. It is also anticipated that the return of Kalyn Ponga will further boost the Knights’ morale and unpredictability in attack. If they can remain enthusiastic and execute a simple brand of football, the Knights will place themselves in the best position to weather the Storm.
The Storm have won their past six matches against the Knights.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 15 June 2019
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 3:00pm (AEST)
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite the return of one of the Knights’ heavyweights, it is hard to foresee a full-strength Storm producing a substandard performance and yielding anything but a victory.