Under new coach Rick Stone the Knights played entertaining footy and touched up a rather poor Melbourne Storm in front of a healthy crowd at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
The Knights threw the ball around and played a “free” style of rugby league. Brian Smith would have been proud.
The best the Storm can do is file this game under “forget about it”. They seemed strangely listless without their star player Greg Inglis and won't have punters flocking to them on the basis of this outing.
Put simply, they couldn’t overcome a possession count weighted 58 per cent against them, plus their more urgent and much hungrier opponents who were playing with their season on the line.
The Game Swung When… In the 47th minute, the Knights' best player Zeb Taia stormed into the Storm and forced a penalty when the ball was wrestled off him. Kurt Gidley kicked a relatively easy penalty goal and it was 20-0 to the home side.
Minutes later Jarred Mullen pulled off a booming 40/20 and the home side were cock-a-hoop. A few plays later Gidley tormented the Storm defence on a winding run, the ball in two hands. He showed it inside, outside, the Storm defenders hung off him before he fired a beautiful flat spiral pass to Cooper Vuna who ran over untouched. When Gidley landed a booming conversion from the sideline it was 26-blot and the Storm were so much toast.
Melbourne came back and scored tries in the 65th, 67th and 72nd minutes but from the moment Dallas Johnson dropped the ball in the first minute, the visitors were chasing their tails. One of their poorest showings for some time.
Who Was Hot… Newcastle had standout performers all over the park. Mullen's kicking was spot-one, Gidley showed off his undoubted class and Adam MacDougall was a handful on the right. Junior Sau (136 metres gained) ran hard and straight at left centre. But best on ground was second-rower Taia, who had a storming match of hits and hit-ups.
Cameron Smith (game-high 47 tackles), Dallas Johnson (35 tackles) and Ryan Hoffman (14 hit-ups, 25 tackles) were the Storm's hardest workers.
Who Was Not... Billy Slater (three errors) dropped the ball at crucial junctures and Smith's body language never engendered confidence among his team-mates. Brett Finch missed six tackles. Overall a very poor show on the road.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Newcastle's second try was a cracker, going through 12 sets of hands, hot potato-style to the left sideline and then back to the right sideline, before Matt Hilder touched down.
Super trademark try by the Storm in the 67th minute: Cronk chipped over the top and Slater ran onto it, and stormed into space. Fullback to beat, he chipped over the top where the ball sat up beautifully for the flying Steve Turner who touched down out wide.
Bad Boys… None.
Injuries… Storm second-rower Matt Cross suffered an ankle injury, the extent of which is yet to be determined.
Refs Watch… No quibbles with officials Jason Robinson and Tony De Las Heras.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Zeb Taia (Knights): Made 22 runs, gained 130 metres and contributed a massive 13 tackle breaks; 2 points – Kurt Gidley (Knights): Smooth running (121 metres) and beautiful distribution; 1 point – Adam MacDougall (Knights): A hard-running handful down the right, gaining 127 metres. Made 17 crunching tackles too.
Knights 26 (J Mullen, M Taufua, M Hilder, C Vuna tries; K Gidley 5 goals) def Storm 14 (C Cronk, S Turner, B Anderson tries; C Smith goal) at EnergyAustralia Stadium. Crowd: 13,580.