The Melbourne Storm have played a patient game to defeat the Newcastle Knights 16-14 at AAMI Park today, after trailing the visitors until the 70th minute.
With Craig Bellamy electing to rest star halfback Cooper Cronk, the Knights took advantage of a perceived lack of respect from the Storm and dominated the first half. Joey Leilua opened the scoring for Newcastle, bouncing off a couple of wide defenders to score the Knights' first.
A follow-up penalty goal converted by Tyrone Roberts saw the Knights 8-0 in front and quelled a normally boisterous AAMI Park crowd, until the Storm struck back through Maurice Blair. Cam Smith's missed conversion meant the Knights stayed four in front.
With momentum back in the Storm's corner, Newcastle produced a try largely against the run of play, with Mullen putting a perfect kick over to the corner for Leilua to score his second. The Knights held a ten-point lead right up until just before halftime, when Sisa Waqa crossed out wide to close the gap. Smith converted to ensure the Knights only took a four point lead into halftime.
What followed for the next thirty minutes was a second half punctuated by errors from both sides, and the Knights constantly being required to hold out the Storm on their own line. They didn't cave until the 70th minute, with Billy Slater turning inside just short of the line and bettering his position to score under the posts. The easy conversion put the Storm in front for the first time in the game, and was a lead they'd hold til the fulltime siren sounded.
The Knights showed plenty of promise, a superb kicking game from Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts ensuring the Knights dominated for large periods and largely nullified the running game of Storm fullback Billy Slater. For the victorious hosts, Cam Smith was again outstanding in both attack and defence.
Next week Newcastle have their first bye of the 2013 season before they host the Titans on a Sunday afternoon in a fortnight. The Storm don't have the luxury of the bye next week - they head to Skilled Park to face the Titans themselves on Monday week.