AAP Rugby

Knights’ Ponga a headache for Storm coach

By AAP Newswire

Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga's return to the Knights line-up is a headache Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy doesn't need.

Ponga comes back into the in-form Knights' team for Saturday's NRL clash with the Storm at AAMI Park after sitting out last weekend following his State of Origin exertions for Queensland.

Bellamy has spent a good part of this week on the training paddock attempting to come up with a way to nullify the 21-year-old.

"You watch that guy play and sometimes you wonder how you're going to stop him," Bellamy said.

"I might send our halves out with a shotgun each and see how they go with that."

Despite not having their star No.1, the Knights stretched their winning run to six games with a 20-12 win over South Sydney last weekend.

That run has lifted Nathan Brown's men up to fifth on the ladder.

Melbourne's win over the Warriors has put them on top of the table after 12 games and Bellamy is anticipating a mouthwatering clash.

"They probably are the form side in the competition. They've won their last six and haven't been behind at all in those six games," the Storm coach said.

"(Mitchell) Pearce is probably playing as good as footy as he's ever played.

"They've got some big outside backs who make some good ground for them, (Connor) Watson at dummy-half is quick as well, so we know what their strengths are - hopefully we can combat that.

"We've got a few strengths in our side as well and hopefully they'll have their hands full combating us."

Bellamy has stuck with the same 17 which beat the Warriors while Ponga's return has forced Brown to alter his line-up for the Knights.

Kurt Mann has moved back to No.6 with Mason Lino on the reserves list while Josh King takes the place of Pasami Saulo on the interchange bench.

KEY MATCH STATS

* Newcastle are aiming to win seven straight matches in a single season for the first time since 2001.

* The Storm have won the past six matches between these clubs and have beaten the Knights nine times in 11 games at AAMI Park.

* Kalyn Ponga is aiming to become just the second Knights player to score a try in seven straight matches, with Akuila Uate scoring in nine consecutive matches in 2012.