The Danny Buderus fairytale finish is still on the cards after Newcastle held on to defeat Melbourne 18-16 at AAMI Park last night.
The man they call ‘Bedsy’ at Hunter Stadium was sensational for the Novocastrians, but he had plenty of mates.
He started his career in 1997 when the Knights beat Manly in the Grand Final. In his swansong, those two teams make up half of what’s remaining in the competition.
It couldn’t happen could it?
Knights skipper Jarrod Mullen was lost for words.
“I had faith in the boys that we could hang on,” he said. "I’m pretty overwhelmed. I’ve never been in this position — going into a playoff game to play in a grand final.
“It’s something everyone in the team has worked hard for all year. It’s a pretty surreal feeling."
The two-point loss brings the defending Premiers’ season to an end while the Knights roll on to a preliminary final blockbuster with the Sydney Roosters next Saturday night.
The Knights led all the way from start to finish but had to hold out a fast-finishing Storm side in the final quarter of the game.
Newcastle lost winger James McManus in the lead-up to the match but replacement winger Kevin Naiqama, playing just his fifth first grade game all season looked a seasoned professional.
The Penrith-bound flyer made a searching 40-metre run with his first touch of the ball as the Knights threw the no-frills game plan that had worked so well for them in previous weeks out the window.
Instead of four hit-ups and a kick to the corner, the Knights threw caution to the wind and used the ball to the edges with Robbie Rochow, Joseph Leilua and Naiqama having a night out.
Naiqama’s fellow Fijian Akuila Uate started the scoring in the 10th minute after some clever play to the right and a great ball sent him on his way down the western touchline.
Melbourne fullback Billy Slater came across in cover with what appeared to be a shoulder charge going unpunished as Uate bounced away to score in the corner.
When Matt Hilder dived over next to the posts just after halftime to extend the visitors lead from 12-4 to 18-4 following a Billy Slater error, the Storm had it all to do.
But just like a champion team they responded in style with Sisa Waqa diving over in the corner after a clever chip-kick from Cooper Cronk was batted into the arms of Jesse Bromwich who punched the ball in his winger’s direction.
Not long after the home side were in again as Bromwich charged over under the posts to cut the deficit to two and the Victorians were full of running.
But somehow the Knights held on, showing they learnt from their Round 14 encounter when the Storm scored late to win.
"We would have given that lead up a couple of months ago," coach Wayne Bennett said.
The red-and-blues have eliminated both of last year’s grand finalists in successive weeks. Now for this year’s minor premiers and they’re not without a chance.
Maybe they ARE doing it for ‘Bedsy’.
Melbourne Storm 16 Newcastle Knights 18
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Halftime Score: Newcastle Knights 12-4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Tyrone Roberts
2 points - Jarrod Mullen
1 point - Cameron Smith
MELBOURNE STORM (16)
Tries: Maurice Blair, Sisa Waqa, Jesse Bromwich
Conversions: Cameron Smith (2/3)
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (18)
Tries: Akuila Uate, Chris Houston, Matt Hilder
Conversions: Tyrone Roberts (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Interchange: 14. Jason Ryles 15. Tohu Harris 16. Jordan McLean 17. Kenneath Bromwich
Knights: 1. Darius Boyd 2. James McManus 4. Joey Leilua 3. Dane Gagai 5. Akuila Uate 6. Jarrod Mullen 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. David Fa'alogo 9. Danny Buderus 10. Willie Mason 11. Robbie Rochow 12. Beau Scott 13. Jeremy Smith
Interchange: 14. Matt Hilder 15. Chris Houston 16. Neville Costigan 17. Alex McKinnon
Scored by Akuila Uate. Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Newcastle open the scoring with Akuila Uate getting them on the board. Roberts converts.
Newcastle Knights 6-0
Scored by Maurice Blair. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful.
The Storm hit back with Maurice Blair crossing. Cam Smith's conversion attempt misses.
Newcastle Knights 6-4
Scored by Chris Houston. Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Knights are in just before the break! Chris Houston takes a good ball just short of the line and crashes over to score. Tyrone Roberts makes the lead 8 points at the break.
Newcastle Knights 12-4
Scored by Matt Hilder. Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
All guns blazing for the Knights in this second half - Matt Hilder is in! Roberts converts and it's 18-4... can the Storm come back from this?
Newcastle Knights 18-4
Scored by Sisa Waqa. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
Sisa Waqa gets Melbourne back in it! The Storm are in with a great try and it's game on! Smith adds the extras.
Newcastle Knights 18-10
Scored by Jesse Bromwich. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
DOWN TO THE WIRE! Jess Bromwich scores for the Storm and with the easy conversion for Cam Smith, there's just two points in it! Can the Knights hold on?
Newcastle Knights 18-16