A costly night for the Melbourne Storm as the Wests Tigers showed they’ve improved since being thrashed 66-16 in their last outing.
Wests Tigers 16
Tries: Ken Maumalo 6, 42; David Nofoaluma 30
Goals: Luke Brooks 40
Melbourne Storm 26
Tries: George Jennings 11, Trent Loiero 49, Jahrome Hughes 58, Xavier Coates 66, Reimis Smith 73
Goals: Nick Meaney 50, 59, 74
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
This was going to be a tough assignment for the Wests Tigers given the Melbourne Storm’s record of winning Round 1 matches dates back to 2005; and their last clash saw them thumped 66-16 at Sunshine Coast Stadium after trailing 40-0 at half time.
It was expected that the Storm would win the game comfortably despite Cameron Munster absent from their side.
Things didn’t go to plan when Brandon Smith fractured his hand in the early exchanges. The injury allowed Tyran Wishart, son of Illawarra Steelers legend Rod Wishart to make his on-field debut in the NRL.
Wests Tigers had their chances early and after six minutes Ken Maumalo was over for his first of the season after a neat overhead ball from Luke Brooks during the move.
It only took five minutes for the Storm to hit back through George Jennings after the Tigers were guilty of the cardinal sin – turning over possession and conceding a penalty.
Jennings’ night would soon be over in the most terrible of circumstances when his left knee gave way with no players around him. Alec MacDonald would enter the game and join Wishart as a debutant for the Storm.
It was evident the Tigers were starting to run around the big Storm pack. Ten minutes before the break David Nofoaluma was gifted a lovely long pass from Daine Laurie to give the Tigers back the lead.
On half-time Ryan Papenhuyzen’s drop out failed to travel ten metres and Luke Brooks converted to give the Tigers the lead 10-4, a massive swing from the scoreline they faced at the Sunshine Coast when the two teams last met.
HALF-TIME: Wests Tigers 10 Melbourne Storm 4Embed from Getty Images
Melbourne Storm started the second half horribly when Jahrome Hughes was unable to get the ball away on the last tackle and the Wests Tigers started their set ten metres from the half-way line. The Tigers converted swiftly with Luke Brooks’ cross field kick plucked beautifully out of the air by Ken Maumalo for his second of the evening.
Soon after Melbourne appeared to hit back through Justin Olam, but it was denied after the Bunker correctly ruled that he failed to ground the ball in-goal. They would have better luck a few minutes later with Hughes and Papenhuyzen combining to send Trent Loiero over.
A gift two points for Brooks put the Tigers ahead 16-10 heading into the last 25 minutes of play, but that would be the last points for his side on the night.
The Melbourne of old was starting to show. Hughes and Papenhuyzen would steal victory from the gallant Tigers side with some key moments.
Halfback Hughes stepped off his left and beat several defenders from close range to score under the posts which saw them draw level.
The Storm held up Maumalo with the repeat play that saw him score his second at the start of the half.
Hughes’ break through some non-existent Tigers defence set up the play that saw Xavier Coates cross for his first try in Storm colours. Reimis Smith’s score seven minutes from full-time ensured Melbourne’s run of first round wins continued.
It was a game that came at a cost with concerns over Christian Welch after he appeared to slip in defending on his own line. Reports suggest he’s suffered an Achilles injury.
On top of Smith and Jennings’ first half departures, Craig Bellamy has a few headaches ahead of his 500th game as Storm coach next Thursday when they meet the Rabbitohs.
Lucky for the supercoach, Cameron Munster will be available to play.
FULL-TIME: Wests Tigers 16 Melbourne Storm 26
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jahrome Hughes (Storm), 2 pts – Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm), 1 pt – Ken Maumalo (Tigers)
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