Melbourne Storm overcame a fast-starting Titans to eventually run out 38-18 winners on the Gold Coast on Sunday afternoon, a result that left the teams bookending the competition ladder.
Gold Coast surprised out of the blocks, scoring after just two minutes as Brenko Lee scooped up a loose Cameron Smith pass on halfway and ran away untouched to score under the posts.
They doubled that surprise five minutes later when Jarrod Wallace crashed over under the posts to make it 12-0, not long after the Titans were denied a try the set before. One of the season’s biggest upsets was on the cards, and Melbourne were going to be punished for resting most of their Origin players.
‘No’ was the answer as the Storm delivered from that point on, quickly scoring two tries in three minutes to draw level. The first went to Suliasi Vunivalu in the corner, the second was courtesy of Joe Stimson who backed up nicely after Brodie Croft broke through the Titans’ defence with a fine run. Melbourne hit the front ten minutes later when Sandor Earl scored his first try since making his NRL comeback.
The Titans continued to surprise, and retook the lead through Bryce Cartwright, only to see Vunivalu grab his second try in that crucial five minute period before half time. Over 70 per cent of teams who score in the five minutes before half time go on to win.
And win the Storm did, with three tries in the second half (while keeping the Titans scoreless), including Ryan Papenhuyzen just after half time, Cameron Smith’s first try in 2019, and PNG’s Justin Olam (his second try in as many weeks).
All told it was a good Melbourne win when down on troops (by their own request), and the Gold Coast have at least something to work with to avoid the wooden spoon.
Melbourne Has Some NRL Player Factory
No Addo-Carr, no Munster, no other Origin players, no worries. Very few clubs have a production line like the Melbourne Storm; if they don’t produce them, they turn fringe NRL players – who can’t get regular game time – into superstars. Not a bad effort given their feeder clubs are a few thousand kilometres away.
For some it takes some time to break into the top side, PNG International Justin Olam being one player who has shone for the Sunshine Coast Falcons for two-and-a-half seasons before getting a regular chance. He has now scored two tries in two weeks and is establishing himself as an NRL regular. Tui Kamikamica is another example of the rewards of being patient in the Storm feeder system for both player and club. And you just know that Tino Faasuamaleaui will be their next polished gem in the future – if they can hang onto him.
Then there’s the way Jahrome Hughes has taken over at fullback, the excitement machine Ryan Papenhuyzen, and so on.
Even Brandon Smith, who could probably get a starting hooker role at any NRL club, hangs around out of position knowing the education he receives from ‘Mr 401’ Cam Smith and the winning culture is the best for him now.
Well That’s the Minor Premiership Done and Dusted Then? Or is it?
The second half shutdown of the Titans proved just how good Melbourne can be at closing down the opposition. Although they occasionally slip up on crucial nights, like grand finals.
Melbourne do have a challenging run home, playing in-form teams Manly twice (for some reason), Canberra and Souths. They also face the three Queensland teams, but given they beat the Titans without their missing Origin players, and the fact the Storm have a better record at Suncorp than the Broncos, you can’t see them losing the four games it will take to erode the six-point lead to the Rabbitohs, plus their generous points difference.
It would be an entertaining choke if they did.
Sandor Earl Scores
A good news story for the NRL for a change, involving Sandor Earl scoring in the first half against the Titans. It was his first try since making his comeback from being unfairly singled out by ASADA, and suffering a bad injury on his first comeback trip.
He had looked a little shaky in his two previous games for the Storm, not without reason given the recent history, but he grabbed his chance on the Gold Coast, and looked ready for regular NRL action.
With Josh Addo-Carr to return from a break, he will go back to the Intrust Super Cup, where a consolation prize will probably be winning the competition with the Sunshine Coast Falcons. But he has made his point, and the Storm know they have another reliable backup to call upon.
The Walker Brothers
Chairman Dennis Watt came out in the aftermath of Garth Brennan’s sacking to say the next permanent appointment is the most crucial for the club. With that kind of line from the board it may scare a few candidates off. Not the Walker brothers (Ben and Shane), whose feats of playing entertaining rugby league and winning the Queensland Cup and State Championship in 2015 have gone unrewarded at NRL level.
Their different style will at last catch the eye and make a few highlight reels. And with some of the talent on the Gold Coast currently, they may actually suit the players with their differing view on rugby league. There’s plenty of exciting talent at the Titans that could do well with a complete reset.
If the Titans are going to fail, best it be with a coaching set up that might put some smiles on fans’ faces, and possibly attract some new casual fans or interested onlookers. They’ve had the normal, everyday style, and now it’s time for something completely different. They could die wondering anyway.
Gold Coast Titans 18
Tries: Brenko Lee, Jarrod Wallace, Bryce Cartwright
Goals: Tyrone Roberts 3/3
Melbourne Storm 38
Tries: Suliasi Vunivalu (2), Joe Stimson, Sandor Earl, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Smith, Justin Olam
Goals: Cameron Smith 5/7
Gold Coast Titans: 1. Alexander Brimson 2. Dale Copley 3. Brenko Lee 4. Brian Kelly 5. Phillip Sami 6. Tyrone Roberts 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Jack Stockwell 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. Jai Whitbread. Interchange: 14. Michael Gordon 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Leilani Latu 17. Sam Stone.
Melbourne Storm: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Sandor Earl 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 6. Joe Stimson 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 11. Tui Kamikamica 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth.