A narrow win for the Paramatta Eels had moved the Melbourne Storm down to third place in the ladder but a win would put them back to within a point of the league leaders, the Penrith Panthers. Their opposition, the Newcastle Knights, have been running hot and cold all season knew that a win would give them a little breathing space within the all-important eight.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy named changes of Bromwich, Seve, Hynes and Eisenhuth in his seventeen-man side while Adam O’Brien’s Knights would have Randall, King and Crossland on duty.
The bookies fancied the Storm to extend their five game winning run in the final game of round twelve, but the Knights knew that spoiling the Storm party would boost their own Grand Final chances.
Three minutes in Suliasi Vunivalu got the scoreboard moving for the Storm, scoring in his eighth consecutive match, when he exploited an overlap wide right and rounded towards the sticks to give Cameron Smith an easier kick to establish a 6-0 lead.
The Knights responded three minutes later thanks to a solo effort from Bradman Best who stepped out of the first tackle before being ankle tapped and stumbling over the line to ground. Kalyn Ponga added the conversion to level the scores, it wasn’t going to be all one-way traffic.
Almost twenty minutes passed before the Storm got their second. Cam Smith was backing up Kenny Bromwich and took the pass to complete a breakaway try, rolling over the line under a tackle and getting the ball on the ground. The veteran skipper added the conversion for a 12-6 lead.
A ninety metre Ryan Papenhuyzen try increased the Melbourne lead when he picked up a weak grubber from Ponga to outpace the Knights chasers and head for the corner. Cameron Munster took over the kicking, from an injured Cam Smith, but pulled his kick wide of the right upright.
The Knights were ruled offside on the half-time hooter, Munster kicking the penalty for an 18-6 interval lead.
Pasami Saulo was sin-binned on fifty minutes for foul play with the scorers not having been troubled.
A Munster penalty from eighteen metres on fifty-four extended the lead to fourteen points and it looked like the ladder points were secure.
The Knights grabbed a lifeline on sixty-three after Ponga threw the dummy before passing to Aiden Guerra who spun out of the tackle to ground. Ponga added the conversion for 12-20.
On sixty-seven Christian Welch offloaded backwards and Tino Faausamaleaui wove his way through the broken defence for the fourth Melbourne try of the game. Munster added the conversion for 26-12. Game over.
Seven minutes from time centre Enari Tuala picked up a difficult grubber kick to dive over from three metres out. The conversion attempt from Ponga brushed the left upright.
Neither side could register further points as the Storm surged to their sixth consecutive win.
Melbourne didn’t have everything their own way in a hard-fought encounter with a brave Knights side. The loss of captain Cameron Smith with a shoulder injury will be a worry for the Storm and they will want him back as they get into the business end of the season. Storm are up to second again, one point behind the Panthers while the Knights will remain worried about their chances of securing a top eight finish.
Melbourne Storm: Papenhuyzen (T), Vunivalu (T), Seve, Eisenhuth, Addo-Carr, Munster (3G), Hughes, Welch, Smith (T, 2G), Bromwich J, Kaufusi, Bromwich K, Finucane. Subs: Asofa-Solomona, Smith, Faasuamaleaui (T), Hynes.
Newcastle Knights: Ponga (2G), Tuala, Moga, Best (T), Hunt, Mann, Pearce, Klemmer, Randall, Saifiti, Fitzgibbon, Guerra (T), Barnett. Subs: Crossland, King, Saulo (SB on 50), Ese’ese.
Referee: Adam Gee.
Ground: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast.