STORM 34 KNIGHTS 22
Where there's a Will ... Storm centre Will Chambers touches down despite the best efforts of James McManus and Kurt Gidley during Melbourne's 12-point victory at AAMI Stadium last night. Photo: Getty Images
THREE late tries to Newcastle took the shine off an otherwise strong win by Melbourne at AAMI Park last night - and earned the players a blast from skipper Cameron Smith.
Matt Duffie of the Storm streaks away for a try. Photo: Getty Images
The Storm controlled most of the game and led 28-6 with 15 minutes remaining. But their renowned discipline broke down - and, more disturbingly for coach Craig Bellamy, so did their defence - allowing Newcastle to improve the scoreline.
Smith said the errors in the final 20 minutes were not acceptable, despite the six-tries-to-four win after which the Storm remained the only unbeaten team after five games.
''I just said [to the players] I wasn't happy,'' Smith said. ''There were very silly errors that we came up with. I thought they were shortcuts really and this team is not about that. This team is about working hard for each other and doing the right thing for the team and a few of their tries at the end there came directly from our errors.
Cooper Cronk of the Storm. Photo: Getty Images
''Credit to the Knights, they were good enough to get the ball over the line but you can't be happy with putting a good 60 minutes together and then just putting the feet in the slippers. You've got to play the full 80 minutes out so I thought I'd better let the boys know that.''
Despite it being Newcastle's ninth successive loss in Melbourne, Knights coach Wayne Bennett said he saw a lot of positives in his team's showing, singling out Jarrod Mullen and James McManus for praise. He said Danny Buderus was fine after suffering a head knock although Kurt Gidley had hyperextended his knee.
Bennett lamented Melbourne's try just before half-time, scored by Ryan Hoffman, after his side had toiled hard to get back into the match. ''I thought we played some really good football for long periods of time,'' Bennett said. ''They're a quality football team and they have been for a long period of time.
''We're a long way off where we want to be but there was a lot of things I was pleased about. It wasn't all doom and gloom for me. I'm pretty optimistic about where we can go.''
In the first 15 minutes it appeared the Storm would run away with the game with two easy tries to open up a 12-0 lead. But, the Knights managed to rein in the Storm after the initial onslaught and create several chances for themselves.
Newcastle looked threatening during the first 10 minutes after half-time as they tried to come back from a 16-6 deficit, but simple mistakes cruelled their chances. The Storm, after absorbing the early pressure in the second half, took advantage of another turnover to put the heat back on the Knights.
And it was Billy Slater who was on hand to swoop on a loose Storm pass, picking it up at pace, and splitting the defence to score his ninth try of the season. The Storm shored up the win with tries to Will Chambers and Todd Lowrie in the final 15 minutes, but gave up tries to Mullen, Neville Costigan and McManus to take some of the gloss of the win.
The Storm did not finish the game without its concerns. Sika Manu suffered a right ankle sprain which Bellamy said could sideline the prop for six weeks, while winger Anthony Quinn was put on report for a high tackle on Knights centre Junior Sa'u.
MELBOURNE 34 (W Chambers, M Duffie, R Hoffman, T Lowrie, B Slater, G Widdop tries; C Smith 5 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 22 (J McManus 2, N Costigan, J Mullen tries; K Gidley 3 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: Matt Cecchin, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 11,369.