Schick Hydro Preview: Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights
Both the Storm and the Knights will be out for NRL Telstra Premiership redemption when the two sides meet at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon.
Melbourne lost their first match of the season on Monday night against the Sharks, with ball handling in attack again an issue for the previously undefeated Storm.
The Knights are still looking for their first win of the season as they gave up 28 unanswered points in the second half after entering the half-time break level, to go down to the Warriors 40-18.
It's been a tough start for the Knights on all accounts this season, and they'll need to tighten up both offensively and defensively this week if they want to turn their fortunes around.
Newcastle has the lowest completion rate in the competition at 70 per cent, and has conceded the most points to date with 142.
The Storm's otherwise solid defence let them down at times on Monday night, as the Sharks were able to penetrate the ruck and score through the middle.
Coach Craig Bellamy said he couldn't remember the last time his side were cut open like they were on Monday, meaning that it'll most likely be a focus at training throughout the week.
Watch out Storm: The depth of the Storm outside backs has taken another massive blow, with Curtis Scott (leg injury) and Marika Koroibete (suspension) missing the game against the Knights. Their replacements will make for an inexperienced combination on the right-hand side, so look for the Knights to try and find some joy down that edge.
Watch out Knights: Some of the key Storm players were not a factor against the Sharks last Monday, and that doesn't bode well for the Knights this weekend. Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk weren't at their damaging best, and the Storm big men were unable to stamp their mark on the game. Those guys will be itching to rectify that performance against the Knights, and if they do, it could end up being a long night for the visitors.
Key match-up: Trent Hodkinson v Cooper Cronk. Although unable to guide his team to victory on Monday, Hodkinson was one of the standouts for the Knights against the Warriors. The 27-year-old has been inconsistent of late, but he's a threat to any opponent when he plays his best footy. Cronk has been a big factor in all of the Storm's wins this season, but was unable to play a big role in their loss to the Sharks. If Cronk is able to assert himself on the game like usual, then it should be an interesting battle at halfback.
The history: Played 34; Storm 19, Knights 15. Melbourne has a slight edge over Newcastle throughout their history, but the Knights have been the better side during their recent meetings. Newcastle has won three out of the past four contests, including their thrilling 18-16 win at AAMI Park in the semi-final in 2013.
What are the odds: Sportsbet customers love a big price, which would explain why there’s slightly more money invested on the Knights to cause a huge upset against the Storm. Newcastle opened at $7.00 but that price was quickly snapped up by punters. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Chris Sutton. Touch judges: Brett Suttor, Dave Ryan. Review officials: Ben Galea, Jason Robinson. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 2.30pm (AEDT).
How we see it: Newcastle will be looking to break their duck this season and get their first win, but it doesn't get much harder than travelling from Auckland to Melbourne to face a Storm team coming off a loss the week before. The Storm will look to bounce back fast and providing they don't make the same errors they did last week, they should be able to do just that, and quite comfortably too. Storm by 16.