Melbourne Storm defeated a clunky Newcastle 30-10 in Saturday's NRL pre-season trial at Albury Sportsground.
The match was declared a sellout at midday, almost five hours before last season's finalists met in front of a COVID-reduced crowd of 3750.
It's always dangerous to read too much into a trial, albeit the first and lost one for both clubs, but Melbourne largely picked up where it left off after claiming last year's title, while the Knights also resembled the outfit which made too many handling errors in the 46-14 loss to South Sydney in the first week of finals.
"Good it was a trial, I think we took a lot of lessons out of it, some good things, definitely some things to work on," Newcastle captain Jayden Brailey said.
"It was just too many errors, that was the biggest thing and main talking point.
It was just too many errors, that was the biggest thing and main talking point. We're not going to beat any side ... you can't cough up that much footy to anyone in the NRL.Knights' skipper Jayden Brailey
"We're not going to beat any side, whether it be the Storm or anyone, they're the reigning champions and you can't cough up that much footy to anyone in the NRL."
The Knights set the tone for a bumbling performance in the third minute with a risky pass just 2m out from its own line and while Storm's representative winger Josh Addo-Carr got across the line in the next set, he put a foot into touch.
Newcastle dropped the ball three times in the first eight minutes, but in its defence no team is as clinical in pre-season with Storm hooker Harry Grant opening a gap for co-captain Jesse Bromwich, who bombed a certain try from 5m.
It didn't take long for the crowd favourites to post the first try, the exhilarating Ryan Papenhuyzen making a half-break down the left before he was again involved on the right with Felise Kaufusi to set up debutant and Victorian-raised winger Dean Ieremia.
The Storm was dominating possession and territory, while the Knights were struggling for cohesion in attack.
Knights' prop Jacob Saifiti suffered a cork to the knee at the 23-min mark and he rushed out of the line minutes later, allowing Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes to cross for a 12-0 lead.
The Storm rounded out the first half scoring when Brandon Smith charged down the left and from the play the ball, Grant cleverly sized up his options and grubbered for a flying Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
It was also an early birthday celebration for the NRL's biggest player at 2m and 115kgs-plus as he's born on the leap year day of February 29.
Into the second half, the NRL's Rookie of the Year in Grant was forced from the field with a medial ligament injury in the 2nd minute.
However, it shows Melbourne's depth when Kiwi international Smith charged out of dummy half into a massive gap and simply drew the last line for Kaufusi to crash over for a 24-0 lead.
The match was effectively and as both teams tried different combinations, the spectacle fell away for a short time, although Newcastle posted its first try midway through the half from Dylan Lewis.
Asofa-Solomona set up the Storm's last try when he charged at the line and lobbed a pass, which eventually fell to Chris Lewis for a 30-4 lead.
The Knights completed the scoring in the final minute when monster English teen Dominic Young combined with Lucas down the right for the overseas centre to score near the posts.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted both teams were a little scrappy in attack, but was generally pleased.
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"I'm really happy with our defence, I thought we defended well," he said.
The Storm will now play South Sydney in the season opener on Thursday, March 11, while the Knights are home to the Bulldogs the following night.