Slater stars as Storm thrash Knights

If the Maroons fired a distress signal after a humbling 28-4 loss on in Origin I on Wednesday night, then Queensland legend Billy Slater more than answered the call in the Melbourne Storm's classy 40-12 win over the Newcastle Knights.

It was a Slater masterclass as he ignited his side by setting up two tries and scoring two more of his own to remind Maroons selectors of his lethal ability in attack.

In the absence of captain Cameron Smith who withdrew before kick-off, Slater's performance forces Queensland coach Kevin Walters to seriously consider going against his loyalty policy and re-insert the legendary "Big Three" combination of Smith, Slater and Cooper Cronk into a must-win Game Two in Sydney. 

‌Leading 4-0 after two minutes, some Slater magic helped the Storm score back-to-back tries and break the game open. The first one was for the end-of-season highlight reel as the Storm beautifully executed a left-sided play for Tohu Harris link with Slater who threw a magnificent one-handed over-armed pass to send Josh Addo Carr over. 

Slater then quickly set up another, running at the line and putting Felise Kaufusi through a gap to score in the right corner. The Storm took a commanding 16-0 lead after 18 minutes, and it appeared it would be a long night for the Knights.

However, Newcastle dug their heels in and consecutive penalties put them within striking range as Maroons star Dane Gagai fended off his man to find Ken Sio who launched himself down the sideline to reach out with a one-handed slam over the try line 11 minutes before half-time. 

The momentum was with the visitors and they almost scored again only to be denied my a marginal forward pass ruling. But the Knights were left short-handed four minutes from half-time with Lachlan Fitzgibbon sinbinned after repeated team infringements.

Slater left his mark on the match in the second half as he scored two brilliant tries to seal the result 30 minutes from full-time. 

The fullback was the beneficiary of a perfectly placed Cronk grubber to score beside the posts and extend the Storm's lead to 22-6 four minutes into the second half.

He then pinned his ears back to weave through and elude several Knights tacklers to race 30 metres and score under the posts to cap an impressive night.

Cronk backed up from a disappointing Origin loss with a solid match for Melbourne, providing three try assists including setting up winger Suliasi Vunivalu for his double.

A late consolation try saved some face for the Knights in the second half as Fitzgibbon chased down a Dane Gagai grubber but Cheyse Blair had the final say as he crossed for the Storm to finish 40-12 victors.

Melbourne Storm 40 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Billy Slater 2, Cheyse Blair, Brandon Smith, Josh Addo-Carr, Felise Kaufusi tries; Cameron Munster 4 goals) beat Newcastle Knights 12 (Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Ken Sio try; Brock Lamb 2 goals) at AAMI Park.