The Roar
The Roar


Knights make hay while sun shines without Storm stars to chalk up ugly first win

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24th March, 2024

It wasn’t pretty but Newcastle were fortunate to get over a Melbourne side lacking star power to register their first win of the season on Sunday night, leaving Gold Coast and South Sydney behind in the NRL cellar.

The Knights made plenty of errors but luckily for them, the Storm were also far from their best after going into the clash without injured five-eighth Cameron Munster and suspended halves partner Jahrome Hughes.

Not that the lack of their first-choice halves pairing appeased coach Craig Bellamy who unleashed on his team during his half-time address after after they went into the break 14-0 down.

Neither coach was happy with their team’s performance at full-time but the two competition points from the 14-12 triumph are most welcome for Newcastle after they were thumped by Canberra and then sunk in extra time by North Queensland in the opening two rounds.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm tackled by Bradman Best of the Knights during the round three NRL match between Newcastle Knights and Melbourne Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium, on March 24, 2024, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

Ryan Papenhuyzen is tackled by Bradman Best. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

The win did little to solve Newcastle’s halves dilemma.

Adam O’Brien dropped Jackson Hastings for round three as he looked to re-energise his side but Jack Cogger misfired seeking to push a case to keep the halfback spot permanently.

The off-season recruit, Penrith’s premiership-winning bench utility in 2023, sprayed his first kick out on the full and spilt the ball on a run through the middle of the park midway through the first half.


The first 20 minutes was a grind for both teams and the big crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Storm centre Reimis Smith was an early casualty with a rib injury and Kane Bradley was thrown into the role for the just the fifth game at NRL level for the ex-Cowboy.

Newcastle veteran Dane Gagai saw fresh meat to attack and when the ball was spun wide to him, the former international powered through to score the first try of the match in the 25th minute.

Knights star Kalyn Ponga doubled the lead to 12-0 a few sets later when he spotted an overlap on the short side and shot out of dummy half to fire a bullet pass wide for winger Enari Tuala to touch down.

“We basically got what we deserved after our first half. We didn’t complete well, we weren’t really thinking too much about our footy,” said Bellamy. “It ended up costing us.”

Melbourne weren’t totally bereft of star power and Ryan Papenhuyzen cut the deficit to eight in the 50th minute when he collected the crumbs after Knights winger Tom Jenkins fumbled a Jonah Pezet high kick.


Papenhuyzen split the defence up the middle midway through the second half and a long-range try looked on the cards but the pass he spiralled wide to Nick Meaney was behind the centre, who fumbled it to let the Knights off the hook.

When the home side made a meal of an attacking raid of their own, Adam O’Brien did his best Bellamy impression inside the coach’s box, bellowing into his walkie-talkie before slamming it on the desk like his former mentor.

He remained in a glass cage of emotion moments later when the Storm streaked upfield but the set came to nothing when a Will Warbrick kick was scooped up by Gagai.

Papenhuyzen has had more than his fair share of serious injuries and he was lucky to avoid another one in the 65th minute when he was flipped mid-aid by Leo Thompson after the Kiwi forward ran through to contest a bomb but did nothing much apart from getting under the fullback’s legs as he leapt into the night sky.

Thompson was placed on report and is likely to attract a charge from the match review committee.

With the Knights continually leaving the door open for the Storm, stopgap halfback Tyran Wishart took the opportunity to sidestep his way through for a solo try to bring his side within two points heading into the final four minutes.


Papenhuyzen rolled the dice with a long-range two-point field goal attempt with Melbourne’s last set but it was never on target and the Knights held on by the skin of their teeth for a thoroughly unconvincing first win of 2024.

Cogger appeared more comfortable running the ball in the second half but the Knights could not add to the scoreboard.

“I’m relieved,” O’Brien said. “At the end of the way just needed to find a way to win one and hopefully kickstart us from there.”

O’Brien was pleased with Cogger’s first hit-out next to Tyson Gamble but would not commit to a halves pairing for next week’s semi-final rematch against the Warriors.

“I don’t need any headlines about chopping and changing and all of that. I’ll just enjoy that win, look at the video and go from there,” he said. “I thought led by this guy (Ponga) I thought we were quite dangerous with the ball, especially in the first half.

“Things got a bit wild in the second but all in all, for the first week, I’m pretty with happy the way it went. It’ll only get better.”

The Storm have the bye in Round 4 and will be boosted by Munster (groin) and Hughes while second-rower Joe Chan (hand infection) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hamstring) will also be available.


with AAP