Neve O’Neill previews the Sunday afternoon Round 12 blockbuster between the Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the home of the Kabi Kabi people.
Despite a slow start in the first half last week against the Brisbane Broncos, the Storm regained control after half time and scored 30 unanswered points against their struggling opposition. Their execution in the latter stages of the game was brilliant and their defence was second-to-none. This week, the Storm will be looking to strike and notch up their 6th straight win against their old foes from Newcastle.
The Knights are currently placed 6th on the NRL ladder, and a win on Sunday could elevate them as high as 4th spot. The Knights are a much improved side in 2020 – they have found cohesiveness in their attacking structures and their defence has been consistently strong. While a big test for the Novocastrians, this weekend’s challenge against the Storm is exciting in that it gives them the chance to compete and showcase their skills against one of the NRL’s heavyweights.
The Storm’s 17 has been slightly shuffled as a result of injuries to Brenko Lee (hand) and Paul Momirovski (finger). Marion Seve replaces Lee at centre, and Tom Eisenuth returns to the team in place of Momirovski. Named in the reserves, Kiwi international Jesse Bromwich is a chance to return from a knee injury.
1 Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Marion Seve, 4 Justin Olam, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Christian Welch, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Tino Faasuamaleaui, 16 Albert Vete, 17 Tom Eisenhuth. Reserves: 18 Ryley Jacks, 19 Nicho Hynes, 20 Darryn Schonig, 21 Jesse Bromwich.
Chris Randall has been named at hooker following season-ending injuries to stars Andrew McCullough (hamstring) and Connor Watson (achilles). Sione Mata’utia is out with syndesmosis, and Aidan Guerra will lace up the boots and start in the back row. Phoenix Crossland and Josh King join the interchange bench to fill the void left by McCullough and Crossland.
1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Enari Tuala, 3 Tautau Moga, 4 Bradman Best, 5 Hymel Hunt, 6 Kurt Mann, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Chris Randall, 10 Jacob Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14 Phoenix Crossland, 15 Josh King, 16 Pasami Saulo, 17 Herman Ese’ese. Reserves: 18 Tex Hoy, 19 Jirah Momoisea, 20 Mason Lino, 21 Matt Croker.
The Storm have secured the 2 points in 8 of their last 8 meetings against the Knights.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm) v Kalyn Ponga (Knights) – the young fullbacks and (absolute) stars of the future.
This match up has had fans talking all week! Two of the most explosive and electrifying fullbacks in the competition, both Papenhuyzen and Ponga have the ability to light up a match in an instant. Both with blinding speed, deft footwork and impressive playmaker skills, this battle is shaping up to be a cracker and will play a large part in determining which team comes away with the victory.
Prediction: While the Knights will seriously challenge the boys from Melbourne, I expect that the Storm will just be too clinical for their Newcastle counterparts and secure their 6th straight victory on Sunday at their Sunshine Coast ‘home away from home’.
Storm by 8.
Date: 2 August, 2020
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 4:05pm (AEST)