Storm v Knights: Five key points
Slater demands an Origin recall, Storm survive without their skipper, Origin stars impress backing up and Knights monstered by lop-sided statistics.
Slater's compelling case for Queensland recall
Simply put, Billy Slater makes things happen and with a State of Origin Series on the line Queensland coach Kevin Walters may not be able to deny his claims after a starring role on Friday night.
"I think it's impossible to leave him out. It's impossible," Braith Anasta said in commentary on Fox Sports.
The pace and precision with which Slater operates causes defences all sorts of headaches and he was the main destroyer against a Newcastle team that defended their try-line bravely for large periods of the game.
A well-worked set play to Melbourne's left in the 14th minute ended with Slater putting Josh Addo-Carr across for his ninth try of the season with a perfect one-handed over-the-top pass.
Four minutes later his combination with Cooper Cronk that could so easily transfer to the Origin arena stretched the Newcastle line before Slater provided a superb short pass to put Felise Kaufusi into a hole destined for his fourth try of the year.
It took just three minutes of the second half for Cronk and Slater to combine again and this time it was the champion fullback planting the ball over the line after juggling it behind his back, the pair doubling up less than 10 minutes later for Slater's second.
Darius Boyd has done nothing wrong to lose his Maroons jersey but if Walters needs his team to be more potent in Game Two he simply can't leave Slater out again.
Storm survive without their skipper
Melbourne had won just once in their past 10 games without skipper Cameron Smith but had enough class to overcome his absence in overcoming a brave Knights outfit.
Having made 41 tackles against the Blues in Origin I 48 hours earlier Smith was given the night off, allowing Slade Griffin to come into the starting side and exciting young talent Brandon Smith to make his NRL debut.
Coach Craig Bellamy admitted at half-time with a wealth of possession they perhaps missed Smith's calm head when attacking Newcastle's line but Griffin and Smith provided adequate service for Cronk to engineer the Storm's 10th win of the season.
Brandon Smith, who turned 21 on Wednesday night, spent a week in camp with the Kiwi team last month and graduated to the NRL after 30 minutes, his eagerness to impress leading to a rush of blood and a double movement as he attempted to score after just eight minutes.
But 18 minutes from full-time he wouldn't be denied, pushing through three Knights defenders to make it a night he will never forget.
Origin stars stand up for both teams
Forty-eight hours after a game Cooper Cronk described as having the fastest first half he's ever played, the Storm half and the other Origin stars backing up performed admirably for their respective teams.
Cronk, who was perhaps guilty of over-playing his hand against New South Wales, controlled the game from start to finish, providing an inch-perfect kick for Suliasi Vunivalu to score in the second minute and finishing the game with four try assists to take his tally for the season to nine.
Will Chambers looked dangerous out wide for Melbourne and Dane Gagai – after a whole-hearted performance for the Maroons – tried his guts out for the Knights, coming up with an astonishing try save early on Cheyse Blair, a wonderful flick pass for Ken Sio's acrobatic try in the first half and an intercept to stop another Storm try on the 60-minute mark.
Origin players pride themselves on backing up for their club and all three can hold their heads high.
Jesse Bromwich makes strong return
It has likely been the worst three weeks of Jesse Bromwich's life but the former Kiwi skipper wasted no time in contributing to a Storm victory after two weeks out due to a club-imposed suspension.
Bromwich chased hard from the kick-off to make the first tackle of the night on Knights prop Josh Starling and was soon back doing all the things that made him the premier front-rower in the game.
His charges put large dents in the Newcastle defence time and again, finishing the game with 155 metres from 16 carries along with 27 tackles.
Knights starved of territory and possession
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has spoken all season about how his side can only be competitive with an even share of possession and on Friday night his worst fears were realised.
For the vast majority of the game the Storm sat at 60 per cent possession and with a completion rate of 85 per cent they completely froze Newcastle out of the contest.
It took until the 72nd minute before the Knights registered their first play-the-ball inside the Storm's 20-metre line and two tackles later Lachlan Fitzgibbon scored from a Dane Gagai grubber kick.
The home side ran for almost double the amount of metres as the visitors (1731-915), received twice as many penalties and had to make 79 fewer tackles as they completed 12 more sets than the Knights.
No team in the Telstra Premiership could have beaten Melbourne with a statistical discrepancy like that.