The Melbourne Storm showed they’re still the benchmark of the competition, thrashing a woeful Newcastle Knights at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
In what was billed as one of the ‘games of the year’ the Storm came out firing against a Knights side on a six-game winning streak. Newcastle did themselves no favours by making plenty of errors early whilst also failing to put good finishes to the end of their sets.
Melbourne dominated the early exchanges and were camped down on the Knights’ line for the majority of the opening quarter; it took the Storm longer than expected but they finally crossed after 15 minutes as Cameron Smith identified an injured Tim Glasby in the defensive line and sent Jesse Bromwich his way; Bromwich went straight past Glasby before offloading to Jarome Hughes who crossed for the first try of the game.
Newcastle continued to make errors and Melbourne proceeded to dominate all facets of the match. They crossed again through Josh Addo-Carr, after a nice kick from Will Chambers, to give the Storm a 12-0 lead; a Mitch Barnett crusher tackle on Hughes landed the Knights’ enforcer on report as the Knights headed into halftime with their heads down.
The second half started much like the first, with Newcastle making an error on their first set of six and the Storm made them pay again as Suliasi Vunivalu crossed after a neat kick from Brodie Croft to make the score 18-0. Newcastle could have easily given up at this point but they finally put together a couple of good sets together before Kalyn Ponga put his stamp on the game, putting Hymel Hunt in for a try in the corner.
Whilst Newcastle looked like mounting a comeback, they made more errors and compounded their situation when Edrick Lee went to the sin bin; Melbourne didn’t waste their time putting the game to bed, crossing through Joe Stimson with 15 minutes left.
Melbourne rubbed further salt into the Knights’ wounds when Cameron Munster intercepted a Connor Watson pass when it looked like Newcastle were on the attack. Munster wasn’t satisfied with just the intercept – he went to find Marion Seve with a magical cut-out-pass who ran 50 metres to score. Another try out wide to Joe Stimson put the icing on the cake for an impressive Storm win.
If you’re going to go down to AAMI Park and beat the Storm you need to be at your best and Newcastle knew they needed to start well. The Knights put together a poor first half, making nine errors.
Cameron Smith has shown time and time again he’s the best game manager there’s ever been, but the evergreen hooker also has a few tricks up his sleeve. With the game just past the hour mark, Newcastle were starting to gain some momentum when Smith put an end to that. He took a cheeky grubber kick down the sideline and when the ball looked to be going out, he kicked it back in before Edrick Lee took him out without the ball. Lee was sin binned and the game was put to bed in the next set as the Storm took less than one set to take advantage of the extra man.
Mitch Barnett said prior to the game that they were going down there to make a statement, but Barnett made a statement for all the wrong reasons with an ugly crusher tackle on Jarome Hughes in the first half. The tackle kicked off some pushing and shoving between the sides and ended with Barnett on report and likely facing a stint on the sidelines.
Pearce and Ponga nullified
Storm coach Craig Bellamy joked prior to the game that he might have to send out his halves with a shotgun to stop Kayln Ponga, but the Knights’ pair were nullified by their side’s inability to hold the ball and give their playmakers any quality service. This was easily their worst performance of the season and stopped not only the hot streak for the side, but the impressive run of form for Pearce and Ponga.
Melbourne Storm 34
Tries: Joe Stimson (2), Jahrome Hughes, Josh Addo-Carr, Suliasi Vunivalu, Marion Seve
Goals: Cameron Smith 5/5, Ryan Papenhuyzen 0/1
Drop Goals: n/a
Newcastle Knights 4
Tries: Hymel Hunt
Goals: Kalyn Ponga 0/1
Drop Goals: n/a
Melbourne Storm: 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.
Newcastle Knights: 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, 17 Stone Mata’utia, 19 Pasami Saulo.