Newcastle has surged towards the NRL finals, upsetting reigning premier Melbourne 17-16 at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Saturday evening.
An enthusiastic Knights outfit overcame the loss of inspirational captain Danny Buderus for the rest of the season to stun the Storm, who missed a chance to put one hand on a third straight minor premiership with one round remaining.
The Storm ran in three tries to two but two penalties and a field goal ensured Newcastle will stay in the top eight for another week and will secure finals footy with a win over Brisbane at Lang Park next Friday night.
“You’ve got to give the Knights credit, they’ve certainly come here to play and played a tough game and they just had a better attitude than us tonight,” Storm captain Cameron Smith told Fox Sports.
Newcastle had the Storm on the hop from the get-go when Billy Slater knocked on from the kick-off and Buderus’s replacement Matt Hilder scored from the ensuing set.
The visitors pulled a try back with a 24th minute intercept to five-eighth Greg Inglis and went to the break trailing 10-6.
The scores were soon level four minutes into the second half when Israel Folau went over for Melbourne, but the Knights kicked clear again when Jesse Royal barged over from close range.
A 66th minute long range field goal from Newcastle half-back Scott Dureau turned out to be the turning point, with Melbourne unable to bridge the deficit despite scoring a late converted try to Sika Manu.
“We’ve got next week we’ve got to get our heads on for Brisbane – another huge game,” Dureau said following the match.
“If we win next week we’re in there so we don’t want to lose next week and wait for other results.”
Melbourne’s defeat has opened the door for Manly or Cronulla to finish in top spot.
The Sharks are level with the Storm at the top of the ladder following their spanking of Wests Tigers last night, while the Sea Eagles take on the Gold Coast on Monday night.
Knights 17 (M Hilder, J Royal tries; K Gidley 2 conversions, 2 penalties, S Dureau field goal)
Storm 16 (G Inglis, I Folau, S Manu tries; C Smith 2 conversions)