“I thought our first 40 minutes was the best this season,” said Smith, who set up two tries in the first half. “Still a little bit of work to do with starting the second half. We just allowed Newcastle a little look at victory there but nice to come away with the victory on the road.
“It was a great team performance. I think we’ve adapted a bit over the last fortnight to how we play the new game and style of footy.”
Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien will have to wait until round 12 at the beginning of August for another chance to claim bragging rights over Craig Bellamy – the man he worked under for so many years in Melbourne.
O’Brien said pre-game he wasn’t too nervous about facing one of the game’s best thinkers but will be bitterly disappointed his side could not repeat the intensity of the crushing victory over the Raiders last week.
Newcastle’s loss means Parramatta are the only undefeated team after five rounds.
Four minutes in and an energetic Ryley Jacks bolted from the middle of the field in pursuit of a Josh Addo-Carr grubber. He dived on the ball just ahead of Herman Ese’ese, who didn’t show enough urgency.
Despite going down an early try, the Knights were stoic in defence as the Storm asked questions, set after set, in their opponent’s territory.
But the try-saver of the first half came from Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen on his opposite number Kalyn Ponga, who swerved through traffic only to be stopped dead in his tracks centimetres from the line.
When Suliasi Vunivalu bagged the Storm’s second of the half thanks to a devilish right-foot step that left Lee for dead on the right, the visitors looked firmly in control.
The Storm went into the break ahead 18-2 after Smith equalled Tom Trbojevic’s tally for the most try assists this season by setting up Tino Faasuamaleaui just over five minutes before half-time.
There was a concerted ploy to run the ball at Mitchell Pearce, who missed four of his 14 tackles in the first half. Despite his best efforts to create some magic in attack, Melbourne’s defensive nous was too good in this ultimately one-sided affair.
Ponga also searched for a breakthrough but bombed a likely try by not spreading the ball to free men on the right edge. His bullet cut-out pass in the lead-up to Edrick’s try, however, was excellent and helped the Knights get back in the contest.
Knights hooker Andrew McCullough made 65 tackles. Second-rower Sione Mata’utia was also busy with 53 on a night when Melbourne had 53 per cent of the ball and completed 90 per cent of their sets.
The Knights have a chance to bounce back against the Broncos on Thursday. The Storm will face the fired-up Panthers, who came unstuck against the rampaging Eels on Friday.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald