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Two tries to talented rookie Billy Slater have helped Melbourne Storm to a hard fought 12-8 win over Wests Tigers tonight at Olympic Park.
The Storm?s ability to convert half chances into scoring opportunities proved the difference as Melbourne out-scrapped the Tigers in what was a dour struggle for 80 minutes.
Despite the unflattering scoreline Storm coach Craig Bellamy was pleased with the win knowing the game would be arm wrestle for much of the night.
?We just knew that they (Tigers) would come and scrap and scrounge for everything,? Bellamy explained.
?They?re a team that will turn up every week to play, they try hard, they defend well and they get stuck into you so we had a pretty simple plan that we were going in with and for most of the night we stuck pretty close to it.
?Overall I?m pretty happy to get away with the win because I knew it was going to be a tough game.?
Ironically the turning point of the night came midway through the second half when Melbourne skipper Stephen Kearney was sin-binned for holding in the tackle.
This should have been the Tigers? chance to even up the scoreboard but it was the Storm who gained the ascendancy with Slater picking up his second try of the night from long range.
?That ten minutes was nearly our best ten minutes of the night to be honest,? Bellamy added.
?While we defended quite well all night I thought that was the most aggressive we tackled during that period.?
Halfback Matt Orford agreed that the sin binning of Kearney lifted the Storm?s intensity level.
?Everybody just knew the game was in the balance and we had to go on with it,? Orford said.
?We just had to dig our heels in and do what we had to do to play the game that we wanted to play.?
Slater took his season tally to 12 tries in just 15 games this year and was ably assisted by another Storm rookie in Dustin Cooper.
In his first run-on appearance for the Storm since signing with Melbourne earlier in the year 22-year-old Cooper scored a try with his first touch and was involved in several other opportunities.
?I was pretty confident in putting him (Cooper) in (the side), I haven?t seen too much of him play but he?s a very confident kid and he did a pretty good job,? Bellamy said of the former Redcliffe Dolphin.
The Tigers leave Melbourne knowing they still haven?t beaten the Storm in Victoria.
Despite leaving the field in the second half following a heavy head-clash, Storm prop Mitchell Sargent was cleared of any injury. The Storm had no other injuries.
DETAILS STORM 16 Tries: Cooper 1, Slater 2 Goals: Orford 4/4 (1 pen goal)
TIGERS 8 Tries: Milton 1 Goals: Covell 2/2 (1 pen goal)