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Storm skipper Harry Grant shouldered some of the blame for Melbourne’s lack of control and cohesion in their 14-12 loss to Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday night.

It was Melbourne’s first loss after opening with victories over the Panthers (8-0) and Warriors (30-26), and their second straight to the Knights in Newcastle after a 26-18 defeat in July last year.

Both sides struggled to control their sets – Melbourne made 13 errors to Newcastle’s 12 and completed at just 69% (27 of 39) to Newcastle’s slightly better 74% (29 of 39) – but the Knights gained the upper hand with two tries in five minutes midway through the first half.

Inexperienced Storm halves Jonah Pezet and Tyran Wishart did an admirable job in the absence of regular playmakers Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes, but Melbourne made a meal of too many attacking opportunities to be able to pull back a 14-0 half-time deficit.

“Obviously our start, our first half, our execution, it was not up to scratch, and individually I can probably take a bit more responsibility with the group in terms of that, and controlling the ball a bit more,” Grant said.

Tyran Wishart Try

“I think we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities but we didn’t ice them. It’s disappointing but we were in the same position last week [against the Warriors] and we came away with the result, so it’s two different learnings from two very similar games, in a way.”

Pezet kicked 16 times for 530 metres, and his bomb to the corner created Ryan Papenhuyzen’s try in the 48th minute, allowing the Storm to cut Newcastle’s lead back to 14-6.

Wishart ran more in the second half. He stepped out of Leo Thompson’s tackle and around Kalyn Ponga to score in the 75th minute, trimming the deficit to just two points and giving his side a sniff of a second straight late win.

“They came in and played their role, did their job. Jonah was very involved with his organisation, especially in the second half,” Grant said.

“As a group, we were all off in the first half, and like I said, I could have taken a bit more responsibility there. But the second half, Wishy’s running game, he backed that, and Jonah kicked well with the wind, the majority of the time, and played his game, so they did their job in a sense.”

Hughes will be back in the No.7 jersey when Melbourne return to action against Brisbane at AAMI Park on April 4 after a bye in Round 4.

Knights v Storm - Round 3, 2024

Kiwi international Nelson Asofa-Solomona could be back to bolster the pack after returning from a hamstring injury playing for Norths against Newcastle in the NSW Cup curtain-raiser on Sunday, but coach Craig Bellamy was unsure about Munster’s status as he battles back from a groin injury.

Speaking about Hughes, who sat out the Newcastle loss to serve a one-game ban for making contact with referee Chris Butler against the Warriors, Bellamy conceded: “We missed him”.

“I don’t know whether it was his direction, his running game, his kicking game, I think we missed his all-round game, but at the end of the day, all teams lose key players at times, and you’ve got to make up for it, you know,” Bellamy said.

“I thought ‘Wish’ did a pretty good job tonight, and Jonah took on a bit more responsibility, so I’m not blaming those guys because Jahrome was out.

“At stages you get key players out so you’ve got to make up for them.

“As you could see from our second half, if we’d have played like that for 80 minutes, perhaps it might have been different."

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.