Injuries sour record equalling Melbourne win

The Melbourne Storm traveled to the Skilled Park searching for their 11th win on the trot and ninth away victory in a row. The Storm achieved both feats at the Gold Coast whilst putting 40 points on their hosts with a 40-16 thrashing of the Titans, but the victory was soured by three injuries which they will be sweating on ahead of scans.

The first Melbourne injury came very early when Maurice Blair came off the field after causing damage to his shoulder in a tackle. Titans started the game well and were helped by penalties to give them the first points of the game when Titans opted to take the 2 off their third consecutive penalty at the Melbourne line.  Campbell slotted the penalty goal to take the first points of his hundredth game for the Titans.

Melbourne got their first penalty of the night in the twelfth minute and a lead followed. The Storm put on three tries in under 10 minutes to Quinn, Cronk and Manu in the 14th, 18th and 20th minutes respectively.  Smith converted 2 from 3 and Melbourne looked just a class above their opposition and the competition with the minor premiership firmly in their sights.

The Gold Coast were able to find a try in the half after a penalty helped them find the position to create.  The Titans used the width of the field putting the ball through hands to find a way around Melbourne for the first home try of the evening, Bird from the ground threw a superb pass to Michaels to help him find his way over the try line in the corner in the 33rd minute. Campbell couldn't convert and Gold Coast's points were done for the half.

Melbourne however used the remaining minutes of the half to create some opportunities and converted one into a try on the stroke of half time.  After Slater created a Cronk try in the 18th minute, Cronk returned the favour creating one for Slater in the 40th. Smith subsequently slotted an easy to conversion to take Melbourne into the interval with a 22 points to 6 lead.

Melbourne spent the start of the first half showing off in attack then defence, conceding some penalties to show their hosts to the field position which best showed off the Melbourne defence. Rankin made an untimely error attempting to collect a bomb in the 50th minute and Melbourne had no choice but to cash in on the opportunity the drop offered.  Cronk did just that collecting the ball to roll over for his second of the night. Cronk crossed for his third minutes later when Smith gave him the ball he needed to go through the Gold Coast defence and score.

On the wrong end of a growing deficit, the Titans found a chink in Melbourne's defensive armour and took full advantage of it twice getting full reward on both occasions to collect 10 points in 5 minutes. The tries came from targetting Quinn in the air to help Bodene Thompson and David Mead collect tries in the 57th and and 60th minutes respectively. An unlikely fight back looked to be on offer, but the Melbourne defence dispelled any such ideas quickly.

The play that followed showed completed sets to prove a rarity and a rolled ankle to superstar half back Cooper Cronk.  Melbourne were hit by injury again just minutes after Cronk came off the field when O'Neill sustained an injury in an attempt to cross the whitewash.  O'Neill suffered back spasms and had to be medicabbed off the field. In a bitter sweet end to the game for the visitors, Melbourne reached 40 points in the 39th minute after Smith converted Slater's second try of the night.

In an attempt to prove they were in the battle, Gold Coast carried injury in the dying minutes too with Toopi needing the help of head trainer Ronnie Palmer to get him off the field.  The game and players involved were fortunate enough to be closing in on full time as not to run out of players.  The hooter put an end to the carnage signalling a 40-16 victory to the Storm. Melbourne Chalked up their record equalling 11th victory on the trot, looking unstopbale on their road to the finals.

Match Details
Gold Coast Titans 16 were defeated by Melbourne Storm 40
National Rugby League - Round 23 - Saturday August 13, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: Skilled Park
Referee: Jason Robinson and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Phil Cooley
Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy and Michael Wise
Crowd: 11,663
Halftime: Gold Coast Titans 6 Melbourne Storm 22

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Billy Slater (2 Tries)
2 Points - Cooper Cronk (3 Tries)
1 Point - Cameron Smith (6 Conversions)

GOLD COAST TITANS (16)
Tries: Steve Michaels, David Mead, Bodene Thompson
Conversions: Preston Campbell (1/3)
Penalty Goals: Preston Campbell (1/1)

MELBOURNE STORM (40)
Tries: Cooper Cronk (3), Billy Slater (2), Anthony Quinn, Sika Manu
Conversions: Cameron Smith (6/7)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good Evening and welcome to Skilled Park on the Gold Coast for League Unlimited's coverage of the Round 23 clash between the Gold Coast Titans and the Melbourne Storm. Literally a battle of 1 v 16, but anything is possible in this game and there is still plenty of talent in the Gold Coast side.
The Toyota Cup curtain raiser was taken about the Melbourne Thunderbolts in a close one, defeating the Gold Coast Under 20s side 22-20.
TEAM NEWS: Greg Bird will play for the Titans, he will be on the run on side replacing Laffranchi. The Melbourne bench will look very different to the one named on Tuesday with Champion, Hinchcliffe and Vea all dropping off the bench in favour of Waqa, Kostjasyn and Thompson.
1 min: Game on, Melbourne kick off to give the Titans the first use of the football.
2 min: Great start from the Titans as Campbell forces a repeat set with a perfect boot which traps Melbourne in goal to force the line drop out.
3 min: Luke O'Dwyer loses the ball and Slater pounces on it for Melbourne's first possession of the night.
3 min: Error from Melbourne and Gold Coast are back on the attack, we finally get a restart after the scrum takes an age to pack.
4 min: PENALTY to the Titans, 21 metres out, Blair penalised for holding down in the play the ball.
5 min: Back to back PENALTIES for the Titans right in front, this time Neilson is penalised for holding down in the play the ball.
6 min: Another PENALTY to the Titans, this one one metre out from the line against Slater for a steal and it looks like Gold Coast will take the 2.
7 min: PENALTY GOAL 
Preston Campbell in his 100th game for the Titans collects the first points of the match.
Gold Coast Titans 2-0
10 min: We are now getting completed sets from both sides and now that Melbourne are getting use of the football, they are looking well on top.
12 min: Error from Zillman to halt some Gold Coast progress.
13 min: PENALTY to Melbourne, their first of the night and it comes 22 out from the Gold Coast line against Bailey for holding down in the play the ball.
14 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Melbourne TRY.
15 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm!
Widdop pushes the ball out to the left where he finds Quinn to score in the corner. Smith produces a perfect boot from right on the sideline to convert.
Melbourne Storm 6-2
18 min: Gold Coast making some fantastic metres with the ball in hand, but Melbourne's defence is too good where it counts giving Gold Coast no way through to the line.
20 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm!
98 metre try! Slater collects a Campbell boot and puts on speed and footwork to bust through the Gold Coast line before finding Cronk on the outside to streak the rest of the way to the line to score. Smith converting from the opposite side of the posts, but ten metres in and misses this one.
Melbourne Storm 10-2
23 min: Some errors each way since the try, Henry's mistake could prove costly giving Melbourne possession 20 out.
26 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm! Smith from dummy half finds Manu, who just strolls through for a try. Smith from ten metres in from the left touchline slots through the conversion.
Melbourne Storm 16-2
28 min: Gold Coast continuing to make great metres with the ball, but the defence is making any penetration of the line very difficult for the home side.
30 min: PENALTY to Melbourne against Henry for a high tackle to help Melbourne past halfway.
31 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Melbourne TRY!
31 min: NO TRY! Proctor is ruled to have been held up in goal.
32 min: PENALTY to the Titans against Kostjasyn for being inside the ten.
35 min: TRY
TRY to the Titans!
Titans create something from 30 out putting the ball through hands and going from sideline to sideleine before Bird finds Michaels to put him in to score in the left corner. Conversion attempt from Campbell unsuccessful.
Melbourne Storm 16-6
37 min: PENALTY to the Storm, against Bailey for a steal.
38 min: Waqa has a foot on the sideline whilst taking a pass to halt a strong attacking passage from the Storm.
40 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm!
Slater scores on the stroke of halftime, a beautiful no look pass from Cronk to Slater on his inside and Slater is too good for the Gold Coast defence. Smith with his easiest conversion of the night takes Melbourne into the interval ahead 22 points to 6. Confirmation that Blair has done a shoulder and will not be back for the rest of the game.
Melbourne Storm 22-6
41 min: Second half under way.
43 min: 20 metre restarts resulting from the last tackle kicking options of both sides.
44 min: Cooper Cronk goes searching for a 40/20, the perfectly weighted boot gives Melbourne the second best outcome holding up in goal and allowing Melbourne chasers to hold up the ball carrier in goal to force a goal line drop out.
45 min: Melbourne force another goal line drop out catching Gold Coast players in goal.
45 min: Neilson turns the ball over to let the Titans off the hook.
46 min: PENALTY to the Titans against Widdop for a high tackle to let the Titans off the hook.
47 min: Titans force a goal line drop out making Slater play at a ball into touch.
48 min: PENALTY to the Titans against Smith for hands in the play the ball.
49 min: Superb defence from Melbourne forces Mead out the sideline.
50 min: Jordan Rankin makes a costly error trying to collect a Smith bomb drops it cold 5 metres out from his own line.
52 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm!
Cronk pounces on the Rankin error, takes the ball and rolls over to the line to score his second of the night. Cameron Smith nails the conversion.
Melbourne Storm 28-6
53 min: PENALTY to the Storm against Mead for a steal.
55 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm
Smith runs out from dummy half and finds Cronk pushing into a hole, Cronk makes it through to collect his third of the night. Smith converts.
Melbourne Storm 34-6
56 min: Thompson gifts the Titans some good field position with an error.
57 min: Quinn makes a costly error inside the in goal failing to clean up a kick and the VIDEO REFEREE has been called for a possible Titans TRY.
58 min: TRY
TRY to the Titans!
Bodene Thompson is awarded the try. Preston Campbell converts.
Melbourne Storm 34-12
59 min: PENALTY to the Titans against Thompson for holding down in the play the ball.
61 min: TRY
TRY to the Titans!
Anthony Quinn struggling with this high ball and the Titans capitalise through Mead who steals it mid air for his second try of the night. Conversion attempt from Campbell unsuccessful.
Melbourne Storm 34-16
63 min: Seeing some superb try saving efforts from Slater who is everywhere in Melbourne's last line of defence.
63 min: Zillman makes an error to turn the ball over to Melbourne.
65 min: Peyroux makes an error to give away possession near halfway.
67 min: Bird turns the ball over with an error early in the count.
68 min: Forward pass from Smith inside the Gold Coast 20.
69 min: No one can complete a set any more and a Peyroux error invites Melbourne into some good field position.
71 min: Melbourne right on the attack earn a repeat forcing a goal line drop out.
72 min: Blair turns the ball over to let Gold Coast off the hook and Cronk is limping in backplay and will likely come off the field soon.
72 min: PENALTY to the Titans against Lowe for holding down in the play the ball.
72 min: Cronk has rolled his ankle and there is some concern over him.
73 min: PENALTY to the Storm against Peyroux.
74 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Melbourne TRY and its potential scorer O'Neill could be in some trouble too.
74 min: NO TRY, goal line drop out and O'Neill has come off on a medicab.
75 min: Kevin Proctor loses the ball to get Melbourne off the attack.
79 min: TRY
TRY to the Storm!
Adam Blair dummies and breaks through the Gold Coast defence, finds Slater on his inside and Billy the kid goes in for his second of the night. Smith converts.
Melbourne Storm 40-16
Toopi is coming off the field with the assistance of trainer Palmer.
80 min: Blair denies Melbourne their last attacking opportunity of the night turning the ball over on the last tackle with an error.
80 min: The hooter blows and Melbourne have taken the game 40 points to 16.

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