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The Melbourne Storm have started off their 2013 campaign in style with a 30 – 10 win over the Saint George Illawarra Dragons at AAMI Park on a hot Melbourne day.
Last years Premiers took only 14 minutes to post the first points of the game through Billy Slater after a long range 40/20 was kicked by Cooper Cronk in the previous set. Cameron Smith kicked the conversion from in front to take it to 6 – 0 in what would be the first of 5 tries to the home side.
An unforced error by the Storm gave the Dragons a bit of breathing space, which was followed up by a penalty to the Dragons for holding down Matt Cooper, and this saw the visitors make good ground, getting deep into the Melbourne half. Nathan Fien put in a kick only to see Gareth Widdop collect it and scream past the defenders for a length of the field try. Cameron Smith converts and it was 12 – 0 to the Storm after 28 minutes.
It was only the 33rd minute when the Storm posted their 3rd try of the game, coming off the back of a line break by Ryan Hoffman, who passed to Justin O’Neill to put him under the posts. A successful conversion took the score to 18 – 0.
The Dragons received two penalties in the 7 minutes until the break, however were unable to capitalise, and the teams went into the sheds with no change to the 18 – 0 scoreline.
One minute after the break Jamie Soward took an interception for a 70 metre try. He converted his own try and the Dragons were back in the game at 18 – 6.
Lagi Setu looked to have scored a try in the 52 minutes, however it was deemed to have been knocked on by the Storm and no try was awarded.
Melbournes next try came off a Cameron King pass, with the Dragons team looking quite flat, despite being within 30 metres of the Storms goal line. Justin O’Neill took an intercept and ran 80 metres to again score under the posts and take a 3 try lead. Cameron Smith converted the try to make it 24 – 6.
Shortly after the kick off, Melbourne knocked the ball on and gave the Dragons a chance at the line. They took the opportunity in both hands, sending Nightingale over in the corner for the Dragons second try of the afternoon. Jamie Soward missed the conversion with the ball moving to the left of the posts.
Mahe Fonua scored the final try of the afternoon after an over the top pass from Billy Slater, following a Ryan Hoffman offload. Cameron Smith converted from the sideline with a great kick to take the scores to 30 – 10.
Cooper Cronk was the standout of the afternoon. His kicking and passing game was of the highest quality and if Billy Slater and Cameron Smith can stay on the field for the majority of the season with him, the Melbourne Storm will go close to back to back premierships.
The Dragons host the Broncos next week, and the Storm will go to Townsville to battle the Cowboys.