The Storm continue their bid for a top four spot and quest to defend their premiership with a 28-10 victory over the Knights. It was the perfect way to justify the re-signing of super-coach Craig Bellamy, who pledged his loyalty to the Storm though accepting a new contract. Here are five things we learned from this match:
1 Class between the sides apparent
Whilst the Storm weren’t always at their best, and the Knights were far from disgraced, the fact is there us an existing gulf in class between the two sides. The Knights threw absolutely everything at the Storm, as they would not allow the Storm to get too far away from them. As a result, they only trailed 14-6 at the break. They would narrow the margin early in the second stanza to 14-10, courtesy of a Ken Sil try.
However, that’s as close as it would get for the Novocastrians, as they would not trouble the scorers any further, whereas the Storm would score 14 unanswered points, to eventually run away with the game. Whilst the Knights again showed their competitive streak by making more line breaks and forcing penalties from the Storm, they did themselves no favours by making 15 errors to the Storm’s 10, and finishing the match with only a 66% completion rate.
2 Storm justify contract extension for Craig Bellamy
For a while, it appeared that the possibility of Bellamy coaching somewhere other than the Storm was becoming a real possibility, with the Broncos being a potential destination. However, all that was put to rest when a verbal agreement was reached between Bellamy and Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy to extend his future to the Storm beyond 2019. When you consider the departure of Cooper Cronk last summer, as well as the looming retirements of skipper Cameron Smith and fullback Billy Slater, a departure by Bellamy would have been a significant blow for the premiers.
With this recent victory over the Knights, the Storm gave Bellamy a reward for his verbal contract extension. There is minimal doubt that the premiers will be spurred on by this and will use to drive them towards defending their premiership. Moreover, he can help develop the next generation of Storm players.
3 Kalyn Ponga justifies Origin berth
Despite the loss by the Knights, fullback Ponga had a very good game, to continue his impressive season with his new club. There is minimal doubt that supporters of his former team, the Cowboys, will be wishing their club did not let him go. But the Cowboys’ loss is indeed the Knights’ gain. Ponga has been sensational in attack, has come up with some crucial defensive plays, while being brilliant at goal kicking duties.
This game was no exception, as the boom youngster scored his side’s opening try, made 14 tackle breaks and ran for 207 metres. With Ponga’s blinding speed and slick footwork, this will give the Queensland Maroons some much needed spark in attack, in order to give the New South Wales Blues some headaches in defence.
4 Losing run continues for Knights at home
After winning their opening two matches at home against the Sea Eagles and Broncos, the Knights were hoping they could consolidate on that start, much like their supporters. Unfortunately, they have since dropped their next five matches at home to the Rabbitohs, Panthers, Sharks, Roosters and now the Storm.
Whilst their away record is fairly good, their home record is a cause for concern. They have a golden opportunity to nab some crucial wins at home in the coming weeks, as they face the Bulldogs Eels and Titans, who are all placed below them on the ladder. After that, they will have to encounter two top eight sides in the Tigers and table-topping Dragons (that match will be in the final round).
5 Storm still out of the top four - at least for the time being
Despite their crucial victory over the Knights in front of a quintessentially parochial pro-Knights crowd, the Storm will need to wait another week before they can attempt to break into the all-important top four. This is because the fourth-placed Warriors escaped with a victory in their match against the Cowboys.
With the third-placed Panthers having been destroyed by the sixth-placed Roosters, the Storm have an opportunity to not only break into the top four in a fortnight but also leapfrog the Panthers and Warriors into third position. However, to do that, they must overcome the Roosters in a fortnight’s time, as they do battle with the Chooks in Adelaide.
That match will be significant for a multitude of reasons. A win could see them force their way into the top four, while a loss will see them be overtaken by the Roosters, who are breathing down their necks on the same number of points, but with an inferior points differential. Moreover, they will encounter a Roosters side with former Storm favourite, Cooper Cronk in their ranks, in what is sure to be an emotion-charged encounter.
What were your highlights from Melbourne's big win over the Knights? Let us know in the comments below.
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