Melbourne Storm have recorded their third consecutive win to start the 2014 season with a 28-20 victory over Newcastle at AAMI Park on Monday night.
In front of 11,490 people in Melbourne, a first half blitz which included three tries in 10 minutes helped Storm keep their unbeaten record intact with a hard fought victory. Storm were forced to overcome a determined Newcastle outfit who refused to lie down despite Melbourne's attempts to runaway with the match.
Melbourne took an early lead after captain Cameron Smith elected to kick and take two points following a penalty on front-rower Bryan Norrie.
Newcastle didn't take long to respond, scoring shortly after in their first incursion into Storm's half. Former Melbourne forward Jeremy Smith added the points for the visitors, latching onto the end of Michael Dobson's left foot kick which fortuitously deflected off the right hand upright.
As his counterpart Smith did to begin the contest, Newcastle Captain Kurt Gidley chose to take two points and kick at goal in the 18th minute, pushing his side out to a converted try lead.
Storm levelled the scores four minutes later as the home side turned defence into attack. A strong tackle from Mahe Fonua and Kevin Proctor allowed Fonua to flick the ball out to winger Sisa Waqa who won the race to the try-line. Waqa's pace took him away from the chasing pack to score in his 11th consecutive match.
Arresting momentum of the match following the Waqa four pointer, Melbourne applied serious pressure to the Newcastle defence. Capitalising on a repeat set, Storm hit the lead with a sharp Cooper Cronk short ball sending the hard running Kevin Proctor through the Knights defence as the home side took the lead.
Finishing the half strongly, Melbourne's third try in 10 minutes put Storm in control heading towards the main break. Will Chambers was the beneficiary of his side's quick ball movement on this occasion as fullback Billy Slater providing the assist.
A late penalty which caused second-rower Alex McKinnon to leave the field allowed the visitors to peg back the lead, reducing Storm's half-time advantage to eight points.
Putting Newcastle under more pressure, Melbourne wasted no time in the second half, building on their lead, once again finding success on the left edge. Victorian Young Tonumaipea scored his first ever NRL try, spectacularly climbing over the top of opposing number Akuila Uate to claim Cronk's kick.
As is the case with all Wayne Bennett coached side's, the Knights refused to throw in the towel and continued to look for a way back into the contest. They found it, working their way over the try-line thanks to a pin point kick from playmaker Tyrone Roberts finding Uate on the right wing.
Looking to close out the game for Melbourne, Tonumaipea was denied a double by a matter of inches before Newcastle travelled up the other end of the field to reduce the margin further. The visitors drew to within four points after Uate scored his second try of the evening.
With the contest tightening up, Melbourne gave themselves some breathing space with just under 15 minutes of play remaining. Following a strong run from recently re-signed front-rower Jesse Bromwich, some quick thinking from captain Cameron Smith sealed his side's 28-20 victory.
Melbourne Storm 28
Tries: Sisa Waqa 23m, Kevin Proctor 30m, Will Chambers 33m, Young Tonumaipea 44m, Cameron Smith 67m
Goals: Cameron Smith 4
Newcastle Knights 20
Tries: Jeremy Smith 7m, Akuila Uate 51m, Akuila Uate 61m
Goals: Kurt Gidley 2, Tyrone Roberts 2