The Melbourne Storm proved too strong for the gallant Newcastle Knights, prevailing 26-16 in an entertaining match to round out Indigenous Round.

In their second home game at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the Storm seemingly had an answer to everything Newcastle threw at them as they scored three first half tries and defended their lead without their captain in the second period.

Suliasi Vunivalu has an outstanding record against Newcastle and wasted no time getting his side on the board with a try in the fifth minute.

The Melbourne winger has now scored in eight straight games against the Knights and has ten tries in his past eight matches this season.

Bradman Best hit back three minutes later, slicing through three Melbourne would-be tackles to cross the stripe and level the match.

Cameron Smith was the next to score after receiving a pass from Kenny Bromwich to scoot away for his first four-pointer of the season.

Ryan Papenhuyzen then spectacularly doubled Melbourne’s lead by cleaning up a Kalyn Ponga kick, beating four defenders and running eighty metres to score.

Both sides were left counting the cost of a tough first half with Newcastle duo Chris Randall and Lachlan Fitzgibbon requiring halftime head-injury assessments while Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith suffered a shoulder injury.

The Storm would take a twelve point lead into the break.

The scoring slowed in the initial stages of the second period, with a Cameron Munster penalty goal being the only points registered through twenty minutes of play.

Newcastle found themselves down a player for ten minutes after interchange forward Pasami Saulo found himself in the sin bin after tackling the legs of an airborne Jahrome Hughes in the fiftieth minute.

Melbourne couldn’t convert however, and Newcastle were instead the next to score through veteran Aidan Guerra.

The Knight’s comeback claims were unfounded though, and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui ran onto a Brandon Smith pass to give Melbourne an unassailable fourteen-point lead.

Enari Tuala capitalised on a Kurt Mann grubber to score with five minutes to go but it was simply too little, too late for the Newcastle side.

Post-match, Adam O’Brian labelled his side as ‘brave’, but admitted that his side’s performance lacked the polish required to defeat a clinical side like Melbourne.

“On a whole, I couldn’t be more proud of them this week. I was really disappointed last week with our attitude, but I’ve now gone full-scale the other way” he stated.

Craig Bellamy praised his team’s efforts in overcoming the loss of Cameron Smith to win what he described as a ‘tough’ match that ebbed and flowed throughout much of the proceedings.

He then confirmed Smith’s initial diagnosis of an AC Joint injury, stating that he suffered a grade two sprain when scoring the try and will be out for ‘two to three weeks’.

With their win, Melbourne have advanced to second spot on the ladder and cemented their spot in the top four. Newcastle now sit precariously in seventh, just one point ahead of ninth placed Manly.

Both sides will now enjoy a six-day layoff as Melbourne will advance to face the Bulldogs next Saturday afternoon while Newcastle will play the Tigers in a crucial home match.

NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – Big Tino dominated the Newcastle pack, running for 195 metres off 18 runs (2nd to Papenhuyzen, who had an 80 metre try in the first half). Nabbed a try at a crucial stage in the second half to seal the match.

2 Points – Brandon Smith – Was required to fill in at hooker when Cameron Smith left the field and ultimately set up the try that secured the win. The man nicknamed ‘The Wombat’ received great praise from coach Bellamy after the game.

1 Point – Ryan Papenhuyzen – The Storm fullback was solid at the back but broke the game apart in the first half with a sizzling run, leaving Kalyn Ponga in his wake on the way to the line.

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