The Newcastle Knights were desperately unlucky to go down 18-14 to the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon.
Despite leading for the vast majority of the game, the red and blues were unable to keep the Storm out late in the game. Making two changes before kick off, injuries to Sione Mata’utia (concussion) and Danny Levi (back) saw the Knights play most of the game with a bench of two.
While every player did themselves proud, Robbie Rochow and Jacob Saifiti were outstanding with 42 tackles apiece. Nathan Ross built on his solid performance last week as well, making the most metres out of any Knight.
Five minutes into the game Trent Hodkinson did well to get his side a repeat set from a kick, but soon after Mata’utia was flattened in a tackle and lost possession. It was then that he was forced from the field, and Tyler Randell took his place in the centres.
With 12 minutes played the Knights got their second chance to attack the Storm line and Akuila Uate came up with a stellar play. He leapt high to grab a Mullen kick five metres out and offloaded to Jacob Saifiti, who notched his first NRL try with a simple dive over the line.
Back-to-back penalties allowed the Storm to get their first points seven minutes later, Cooper Cronk picking up a dropped ball from Will Chambers to race around the edge defence and score.
Cameron Smith converted to even the scores, and another spanner was thrown into the works for the Knights soon after when Levi went off injured. As a result Rochow moved from prop to centre, and Randell went to hooker.
The Knights didn’t let their heads drop though, and when the Storm coughed up a penalty on Sam Mataora in the 30th minute Hodkinson elected to go for the two points to put the Knights back in the lead.
The Knights conceded four penalties in the first 12 minutes of the second half, but that didn’t stop them from scoring the next try in the 56th minute. It was Korbin Sims who got the four points, the prop showing impressive speed to ground a teasing Hodkinson grubber.
Hodkinson duly converted, and with the score at 14-6 the Storm had to lift. Seven minutes later they did just that, Dale Finucane playing Cronk through for his second try of the afternoon. Smith converted to reduce the Knights lead to two points, and soon after the Storm were awarded a penalty beneath the uprights for Smith to bring his side level.
Richard Kennar shattered the Knights’ resolve several sets later, collecting a pass from Ben Hampton to score in the left corner. Cameron Smith’s attempted conversion went wide to keep the score at 18-14, but the Knights were unable to score again in the dying minutes of the game.
Newcastle Knights 14 (T: J Saifiti, K Sims, G: Hodkinson 2/2, P: 1/1)
Melbourne Storm 18 (T: Cronk 2, Kennar, G: Smith 2/3, P: 1/1)