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Newcastle eliminate NRL champs Melbourne

Knights celebrate a try

Unheralded Newcastle shocked NRL defending champions Melbourne on Saturday night, eliminating the Storm from the finals race with a gripping 18-16 win at AAMI Park.
Newcastle eliminate NRL champs Melbourne
by AAP

By Melissa Woods

MELBOURNE, Sept 21 AAP - Unheralded Newcastle shocked NRL defending champions Melbourne on Saturday night, eliminating the Storm from the finals race with a gripping 18-16 win at AAMI Park.

Newcastle hadn't won in Melbourne since 2004, or in their last seven meetings, but they ripped up the record books to set up a grand final qualifier against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium next Saturday night.

The Knights led 18-10 with 14 minutes remaining but the Storm fought back in a thrilling finale.

Prop Jesse Bromwich barrelled across the line, and Cameron Smith added the extras to close the gap to two points.

The home side threw everything at Newcastle but couldn't find the try they needed to keep their title defence alive.

The Knights scraped into the top eight in seventh but under finals specialist coach Wayne Bennett looked worthy contenders.

They repeatedly upset the Storm's rhythm with their speed and ferocity forcing uncharacteristic errors.

The first half was played with State of Origin-like intensity, with Newcastle coming out on top 12-4.

Battle-hardened forwards Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott and Willie Mason made plenty of ground up the middle before sending the ball wide with wingers Akuila Uate and Kevin Naqiama twin dangers.

Naqiama started in place of leading tryscorer James McManus, who was a late withdrawal with an ankle injury.

Storm fullback Billy Slater gave his team the worst possible start to the second half with a school-boy error which led to a crucial try.

The Test custodian tried to catch a routine Jarrod Mullen bomb above his head AFL-style, but spilt it with Matt Hilder scooping it up to dive across the line just two minutes in.

Melbourne hit back with a try to Sisa Waqa after Kenny Bromwich batted a long ball out to the winger on the last tackle but the Knights kept a firm hold on the game.

Waqa couldn't finish the match after suffering a knee injury late in the half.

Newcastle had two tries disallowed midway through the second by the video referee, the momentum all their way until the Storm fight-back.

The home side weren't helped losing Jordan McLean with a broken jaw late in the first half after a head clash with Alex McKinnon.


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