If I had’ve suggested a few weeks ago that the Knights had a chance of beating Melbourne storm in their round 24 meeting you’d have been questioning my sanity as much as my logic.
But coming into the game off the back of three wins, Newcastle could have enough to surprise a storm side that has effectively wrapped up the Minor Premiership.
Having beaten the Dragons at home on a controversial afternoon, the Knights backed it up at the same venue when they sent a disappointing and mediocre Warriors side packing. They saved the most impressive of the three for last week when they came down to the ANZ Stadium and raised serious questions about the title credentials of Parramatta with a 29-10 win.
There’s a genuine excitement around the Knights, while the Storm are in a position where they can opt to rest players and temporarily take their foot off the gas. Melbourne won’t throw this game away but this could be a lot closer than the NRL ladder would suggest.
2017 – Rd 13 Melbourne 40 def. Newcastle 12 at AAMI Park
2016 – Rd 19 Melbourne 20 def. Newcastle 16 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2016 – Rd 5 Melbourne 18 def. Newcastle 14 at AAMI Park
2015 – Rd 24 Newcastle 20 def. Melbourne 6 at AAMI Park
2014 – Rd 22 Newcastle 32 def. Melbourne 30 at McDonald Jones Stadium
The Knights have won 15 of their 37 meetings with the Storm. Melbourne have had the better of Newcastle in the last three clashes, including a comprehensive 40-12 win at the AAMI Park earlier this season.
The Storm also have a good recent record at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium, winning three of the last five. They will be backing themselves to continue that record, keep building momentum ahead of the finals and mathematically seal the Minor Premiership with victory.
|Dane Gagai||1||1||Billy Slater|
|Ken Sio||2||2||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|Joe Wardle||3||3||Will Chambers|
|Peter Mata’utia||4||4||Curtis Scott|
|Shaun Kenny-Dowall||5||5||Josh Addo-Carr|
|Brock Lamb||6||6||Cameron Munster|
|Trent Hodkinson||7||7||Cooper Cronk|
|Daniel Saifiti||8||8||Jesse Bromwich|
|Jamie Buhrer||9||9||Cameron Smith|
|Josh King||10||10||Jordan McLean|
|Sione Mata’utia||11||11||Felise Kaufusi|
|Lachlan Fitzgibbon||12||12||Joe Stimson|
|Mitchell Barnett||13||13||Dale Finucane|
|Danny Levi||14||14||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|Luke Yates||15||15||Jahrome Hughes|
|Sam Stone||16||16||Kenneth Bromwich|
|Jacob Saifiti||17||17||Slade Griffin|
|Jack Cogger||18||18||Tohu Harris|
|Mickey Paea||19||19||Brodie Croft|
|Brendan Elliot||20||20||Robbie Rochow|
|Chanel Mata’utia||21||21||Nate Myles|
The Facts That Matter
The Knights have every reason to think they can turn up, put on a good show and go toe-to-toe with the best team in the league on recent form. After the last three weeks, it is unsurprising that they have made no changes to the line-up. Nathan Brown has added Mickey Paea, Brendan Elliot and Chanel Mata’utia to the 21-man squad as reserves but is more than likely to stick with the same 17-man squad.
Five-eighth Brock Lamb has been a key component in the Knights recent upturn, with the dynamic young pivot bouncing back marvelously from missing a potentially match-tying penalty at the Belmore Oval a few weeks ago. Since that dark day, the youngster has risen to the challenge and has been a more composed, controlling influence on the side and looks content alongside Trent Hodkinson in the halves.
Ken Sio will want to back up his two-try effort from last week and add to his five tries across the whole of 2017.
Dane Gagai’s shift to fullback has also been a huge bonus, with the Queensland Origin star providing a Greg Inglis-like kick-return game and plenty of attacking threat. The young Knights forwards like Daniel Saifiti, Sione Mata’utia and Lachlan Fitzgibbon have led the charge over the last few weeks and have been big influences on the middle of the ruck.
How do you pick apart a team like Melbourne Storm?
The Storm have been the benchmark of the competition all season and they show no signs of slowing down as they head towards another Minor Premiership and yet another finals campaign. While they could be weighed down by the expectation, they have rarely taken their eye off the immediate challenge, meaning the Knights will be unlikely to spring a surprise this.
Cameron Smith continues to look like an ageless gem, controlling the attacking structure of the Storm every week while continuing his high tackle numbers. Cooper Cronk looks determined to end his time at the club with another Premiership success.
The return of Cameron Munster alongside Cronk adds a level of quality in their build-up play and ensures the Storm will back themselves to score plenty of points this time around, much like they did against Newcastle earlier in the year.
There is no chance of the Storm turning up at the McDonald Jones Stadium with any level of complacency, so big guys like Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane will have the same starch and impact they have had each and every week.
It’s very hard to look past the Storm in this one. It’s easy to buy into the feel good factor at the Knights and they should keep this relatively close. But the Storm are title favourites for a reason and it’s hard to see Craig Bellamy’s side losing to anyone at the moment.. Melbourne by 6-8 points.
Who do you think wins this Saturday afternoon classic, the Knights or the Storm? Let us know in the comments below.
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