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Indigenous Round will come to a blockbusting finish when the Newcastle Knights travel to meet the Melbourne Storm in their new home ground on the Sunshine Coast. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 4:05pm (AEST).
Coming off a disappointing loss, the Knights will look to come back against the perennial powerhouses from Melbourne to push for their claim to be in the top four.
Melbourne have had the wood over the Knights in recent times, having not lost to today’s opponents 2015. Given the form the Storm are in, the drought could continue on for the Novocastrians.
Since losing to league leaders Penrith in Round 6, Craig Bellamy’s men have reeled off five straight wins, including victories over both last year’s grand finalists and three games in which they’ve scored more than 40 points. Against a much-improved Brisbane outfit last week, they recovered from a poor first half to pile on 46 against the struggling Broncos.
On the other side of the coin, the Knights may have reason to be quietly confident. Their defence is looking much better this season – conceding more than 20 points just twice since the season resumed in Round 2 (including a loss to Melbourne).
For Melbourne, Marion Seve comes in for the injured Brenko Lee at right centre, while Tom Eisenhuth returns from injury on the bench for the injured Paul Momirovski. Watch for a possible comeback for Jesse Bromwich, who has been named on an extended bench.
Fourth-string hooker Chris Randall comes in for the Knights after untimely injuries to Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson. Sione Mata’utia is also out, with Aidan Guerra starting in the back row. Phoenix Crossland and Josh King come onto the bench.
Two key match-ups stand out in this one. The first is the battle of the no.1s, Kalyn Ponga and Ryan Papenhuyzen, who are two of the brightest fullback prospects in the game. Both play different roles for their side. Ponga, who is an electric ball-runner with speed and footwork, also loves to chime in and become a third playmaker for his side.
Papenhuyzen seems to be an energiser bunny, where he is constantly looking for work and is always pushing up the middle in support. The Knights will need Ponga to be firing on all cylinders for any chance at winning. Papenhuyzen is in electric form; look for that form to continue this weekend.
The other is Nelson Asofa-Solomona going up against David Klemmer. The Storm big boppa has been in devastating form lately, whereas Klemmer is as consistent and strong as any front-rower in the competition. This battle will largely define how the game goes, with each being a pillar in their packs.
Given the lack of depth for the Knights at hooker, I can see Cameron Smith turning this game on its head. The Storm will continue to grow, winning by a margin of 14.
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium
TV: Fox Sports, Channel Nine
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel, NRL Live Pass, 9Now
Odds: Storm $1.17, Knights $5
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Marion Seve, 4. Justin Olam, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane
Bench: 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui, 16. Albert Vete, 17. Tom Eisenhuth
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Enari Tuala, 3. Tautau Moga, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Chris Randall, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitchell Barnett
Bench: 14. Phoenix Crossland, 15. Josh King, 16. Pasami Saulo, 17. Herman Ese’ese