Storm survive Knights scare
It wasn't pretty but the Melbourne Storm have done enough to sink the cellar-dwelling Newcastle Knights 20-16 at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith backing up from Origin III, and Cameron Munster and Will Chambers returning from respective foot injuries, all signs pointed to a huge Storm win.
But a lack of possession (42 per cent) restricted the Storm who had an uncharacteristic day of ill-discipline.
Without their lone Origin representative Dane Gagai present, the Knights were unlucky not to end their now 11-game losing streak.
The Knights dominated the opening exchanges – and were lucky not to score through Korbin Sims in the ninth minute – though it was Marika Koroibete who'd post the game's first points.
A Jake Mamo error in good Knights territory was intercepted by the Fijian flyer, who did the rest by running 85 metres to score.
The Knights fullback Mamo made up for his costly mistake midway through the first half when the ball fell into his hand due to a Cooper Cronk defensive misread on back-rower Mitch Barnett.
Though a Barnett error in the next very set handed the Storm good field territory again, which they capitalised on through winger Suliasi Vunivalu in the 24th minute – his 17th in 11 games – to set up the Storm's eventual 8-6 half-time lead.
The start of the second half handed another cruel card to Robbie Rochow, who added a pectoral injury to his already ravaged season.
Making matters worse for Newcastle, Koroibete crossed for his second try in the 52nd minute – his 10th of the year – when he powered his way past Brendan Elliot to touch down in the corner.
Koroibete limped off in with 15 minutes to go, and like clockwork the Knights targeted the winger's edge immediately.
It resulted in Elliot's 67th minute try when Knights centre Pat Mata'utia's held the ball up long enough to bamboozle Young Tonumaipea before offloading to the mid-season recruit to score.
Tohu Harris put the final nail in the Knights' coffin when he capitalised off a Blake Green line break to cross in the 73rd minute to help extend the Storm's lead to 10.
Mamo's second try in the final three minutes – as he leapt high above opposite fullback Cameron Munster – offered the Knights a glimmer of hope, but it was the Storm's experience which dictated the day.
Melbourne Storm 20 (Marika Koroibete 2, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tohu Harries tries; Cameron Smith 2 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 16 (Jake Mamo 2, Brenden Elliot tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 10,748. Half-time: Storm 8-6.