Melbourne Storm avoided a third straight loss, and got their top four aspirations back on track, with a hard-fought 20 – 4 win over the Eels at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
The Storm got the win, but the big news coming out of the game was the injury to captain Cameron Smith. The first half saw both teams work hard for field position, with only one try to Will Chambers in the 7th minute. Cameron Smith converted and two further penalty goals in the first half, one for exceeding the drop-goal timer, provided Melbourne a 10-0 lead at halftime.
The main talking points of the first half was the back injury to the Storm captain, twisting innocuously in a tackle causing back spasms. He played on for a further 10 minutes before succumbing to the injury and coming off just before halftime. Smith didn’t return in the second half, neither did winger Suliasi Vunivalu, with a leg injury.
Will Chambers could be in some trouble with a crusher tackle on Jarryd Hayne that didn’t look good, with carry over points, Chambers could spend quite some time on the sidelines.
A try to the massive Storm forward, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 8 minutes into the second half, converted by Croft gave the Storm a 16-0 lead.
The Eels tried hard, but the Storm had their hunger back this week. Decimated by injury, having no one on the bench at one stage in the second half, and then having Cameron Munster sin binned for ruck indiscretions, the Storm were impressive in defence to hold out the Eels, and keep them to 4 points.
The Eels couldn’t capitalise while Munster was in the bin, though once Munster returned, and after a massive spray from coach Bellamy, Munster put through a nice chip kick which bounced favourably for Curtis Scott to seal the game.
The Eels finally crossed over via an incredible catch then dive by Gutherson in the corner to get the Eels on the board.
The Storm were hit hard with injuries, at one stage having no interchange on the bench. Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle), Dale Finucane (Head), Cameron Smith (Back), Brandon Smith (Knee) and Suliasi Vunivalu (Leg) all picking up an injury.
Eels put in the effort
Though sitting at the bottom of the ladder, the Eels tried hard, and had plenty of chances (2 disallowed tries) and possession to put on points, but the Storm are a champion team, and champion teams don’t lose 3 in a row.
The Storm have some injury concerns, with an away game against the Gold Coast next week, they could be fielding an inexperienced team pending on the severity of the injuries. Sitting in top spot tentatively until the round completes, they are still a chance of the minor premiership, but injuries at this stage of the season are never a good sign.
Battle of the wooden spoon next week
The Eels have shown what they are capable of putting in a good effort over the past month of footy, and against the Storm again the effort was there. Their main goal will be to avoid the wooden spoon, and if they keep up that effort they should put up a good fight against fellow cellar dwellers the North Queensland Cowboys next week. The loser is likely to finish with the spoon.
Melbourne Storm 20
Tries: Will Chambers, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Curtis Scott
Goals: Cameron Smith 3/3, Brodie Croft 1/2
Parramatta Eels 4
Tries: Clinton Gutherson
Goals: Mitchell Moses 0/1
1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 21 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c),16 Christian Welch, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane Interchange: 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona , 15 Tim Glasby, 17 Kenny Bromwich, 18 Brandon Smith
1 Corey Norman, Jarryd Hayne, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Clinton Gutherson (c), 5 George Jennings, 6 Jaeman Salmon, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Siosaia Vave, 9 Reed Mahoney, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Marata Niukore, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown Interchange: 14 Oregon Kaufusi, 15 Peni Terepo, 16 David Gower, 17 Ray Stone