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The Melbourne Storm celebrated Billy Slater's 200th game in style tonight, holding out a defiant Dragons outfit with an 8-6 victory at AAMI Park in front of a huge 24,801 fans.
In a low scoring clash that never reached any great heights in attack, it was two relatively simple first half tries that saw each side on the board, a dubious final pass opening the scoring for the Dragons with Kyle Stanley the scorer after 20 minutes. Stanley found his way onto the park much earlier than anticipated after a season-ending leg injury to late replacement Bronx Goodwin saw the young winger ferried off the field. Goodwin had been called up earlier in the day to replacement injured first-choice winger Brett Morris, who sustained a leg injury in the sides' 20-12 loss to the Roosters last weekend.
Storm winger Anthony Quinn would be the other tryscorer of the night, benefiting from quick hands out of Cameron Smith and Gareth Widdop's efforts to create an overlap. Smith converted easily to level proceedings at 6-all.
The final points of the game, amazingly, came in the 40th minute, when the Dragons conceded back to back penalties deep in Storm territory - the home side opting for the penalty goal to take a two-point buffer to halftime.
Melbourne went on to dominate the second half in terms of possession and completion, and had far better field position during the second forty. This allowed them to control the Dragons where they had struggled to in the first half. While the Dragons now sit at five straight losses, they will take heart from a typically tough defensive display which restricted Melbourne's tryscoring prowess.
Desperation late in the game saw the Dragons push too many passes near the touchline, many of them ending up travelling forward or straight into Row B - allowing Melbourne to continue the ascendency right up until the final siren.
With two rounds to go Melbourne seemingly have the minor premiership wrapped up, and will head out on the road for the fortnight to face top two partners Manly at Brookvale before closing the season at the SFS against a disappointing Roosters outfit who will be waiting keenly for Mad Monday in Round 26. The Dragons conversely have two home matches in Wollongong to close out the 2011 competition and hopefully boost them ahead of a fourth consecutive finals series. Their opponents at WIN Stadium will be the Warriors (Round 25) and Panthers (Round 26).
Melbourne Storm 8 defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 6
National Rugby League - Round 24 - Friday August 19, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: AAMI Park
Referee: Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin
Video Referee: Russell Smith
Touch Judges: Daniel Eastwood and Steve Carrall
Halftime: Melbourne Storm 8 St George Illawarra Dragons 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good Evening League fans, a massive clash to open Round 24 on Friday Night Football. It's the Dragons being hosted by the competition leaders the Melbourne Storm. Kick off is minutes away from AMMI Park.
Join us for the all the action, if your on twitter tonight get in with the hashtag #NRLmelsti
Heaps of shuffling from both sides from teams named earlier in the week.
Firstly for the Melbourne Storm: Sisa Waqa goes to the bench, Matt Duffie to comes onto the wing, Maurice Blair is out, Ryan Hinchcliffe to five eighth for the injuried Cooper Cronk. Sika Manu moves to prop for Jesse Bromwich, Rory Kostjasyn goes to 2nd row.
Therefore the bench is Sisa Waqa, Jaiman Lowe, Jesse Bromwich and Todd Lowrie.
As for the Dragons: Bronx Goodwin in for Brett Morris on the wing, Matt Prior in the centres, Dean Young hooker, Mitch Rein at lock, Stanley Fien on bench.
Kick off moments away in possible one of the games of the year!
The Dragons will be looking to redeem themselves in AMMI Park, as they have only won 2 from their past 10 matches. Dragons running out now with the Storm to follow. If the Dragons lose tonight, they can drop to 7th on the NRL ladder.
Storm out on the park, tonight Billy Slater celebrates his 200th NRL match. Big one here and kick off is 60 seconds away now!
Tony Archer blows time on in this clash, they are playing for the Emergency Services cup. WE ARE UNDERWAY!
1 min: The Dragons from just inside their half, and Hornby kicks downfield. Anthony Quinn doesn't collect the ball comfortably as he almost lost it. However he makes it out to the 10 metre line.
1 min: Holding defence of the Dragons forcing the Storm to kick from inside their 40 metre line.
3 min: Dragons starting stronger early as they attempted to open up the right hand side of the Storm line with a running movement from Darius Boyd. At the end of the set the kick from Soward almost finds Nightingale, but was taken by Quinn
3 min: Bronx Goodwin returning the ball up field after a bouncing kick from the Storm. Dragons will have another set inside their 40 metre line.
4 min: A pattern showing early with the Dragons opting to attack the right side of the Storm. However at the end of the set the Dragons kick was poor but coming off the Storm players to go in goals. Billy Slater speeding his way out of goals to stop the goal line drop out. Beautiful running from the fullback.
5 min: Bronx Goodwin opens up the Storm line on the right hand side making 40 metres up field. Billy Slater on his down in back play.
6 min: Slater is okay now, just winded. Goodwin making the break after Boyd returned the kick. Soward however missing the opportunity through a knock on at the line.
7 min: Kick return again with Goodwin, he hits again the right side.
7 min: Dragons playing a little bit of jungle ball now, spreading the ball right and right.!
8 min: So close the Dragons. Great defence from the Storm holding out Matt Cooper who is still down at the goal line. Referee ruled he was held up.
8 min: Billy Slater body checking Matt Cooper to hold him out. Dragons on the last at the Storm line.
8 min: Anthony Quinn collects the high ball in goals to give the Storm a 20 metre line. Boo's from the home crowd that the Dragons were offside at the tap, however no penalty.
9 min: Penalty with the Storm now. Attacking inside the Dragons half.
10 min: KNOCK ON! Sika Manu losing control of the ball off a pass, there was a chance for the Storm at the line if the pass was wider. Not to be, Dragons with the ball inside their 10 metre line.
10 min: Jamie Soward kicking early on the 4th tackle down to the left corner down again to Anthony Quinn.
11 min: TIME OFF! Bronx Goodwin clutching at his strapped knee as he was tackled by Proctor. He just fell awkward. Kyle Stanley expected to come on.
11 min: The stretcher coming on for Goodwin now, he will be taken off the field. This was his return after he did an ACL early in Round 9 this year. Kyle Stanley comes onto the field now for the Dragons first interchange.
11 min: Play back underway with the Dragons who are attacking inside their own 30 metre line. on the 3rd tackle.
12 min: Billy Slater given the ball on the full off the boot of Jamie Soward who kicked on this 40 metre line on the 4th tackle.
13 min: Zero tackle! Sika Manu stripped the ball one on one. Storm with their chance at the Dragons line.
14 min: End of the set from the Storm. Cameron Smith grubbering in the goals for Billy Slater running through but the ball beating him and rolling dead. 20 metre tap for the Dragons.
14 min: Beautiful take from Billy Slater leaping high to beat all to the ball. Storm on the attack.
16 min: Darius Boyd just in the field of play, amazing kick on the 4th tackle from Cam Smith as the ball sat up in goals for Stanley backing to get it.
16 min: Penalty to the Dragons now as Manu laying too long. Injury update, Ben Horny not looking good now. Bronx Goodwin has snapped his ACL and gone for the season. Dragons on the attack inside the Storm 40.
17 min: TRY
TRY! After attacking the right hand side of the Storm for the best part of his match so far, Kyle Stanley is on the end of a forward pass (not ruled on) and crosses to open the scoring tonight. Jamie Soward from the sideline converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
20 min: Ben Hornby was collected almost high and late by Cam Smith as he kicked downfield.
23 min: The Dragons outside backs dropping back early in fear of the 40/20 kick, Boyd returns the kick.
24 min: Jason Nightingale making a break after good passing movement across the field, Nightingale getting around Anthony Quinn but through the ball back on the inside before going into touch. Knock on from the pass.
25 min: Gareth Widdop opening up the Dragons, it's on for the Storm. Attacking only 10 metres from the line.
25 min: TRY
TRY! On the back of the great run from Widdop. The storm try a cut out ball to the left and the ball finds the hands of Anthony Quinn to run in for points. Cam Smith converts from beside the posts.
29 min: Penalty to the Dragons for Jaiman Lowe holding down too much in the tackle.
30 min: Quinn great tackle to deny Nighingale at the line. Storm defence holding strong to stop the raid of the Dragons. Matt Duffie on show to stop Creagh. At the end of the set, Slater takes the high ball
31 min: Storm marching up field now thanks to great breaks. The first with Rory Kostjasyon and Gareth Widdop. Storm attacking inside the 20m line.
32 min: Smith's kick not the best at the line, however Dragons wrap up the ball and work up the ball from inside the 10 metre line. Dragons defence has opened up tonight with clean line breaks. They will be in trouble if it continues.
33 min: Jamie Soward's kick poor as it finds Quinn on the full. Storm attacking on the half way time. The crowd blowing up thanks to a high shot, but not ruled on.
33 min: Referees getting boo's from the home fans as the Storm cough up the ball. Dragons have it through a scrum on halfway. Both sides down to 16 men as during the Dragons try, Sika Manu came off with a strained groin.
35 min: Forward pass ruled from Soward to Nightingale, Storm have the ball with a change over on their 10 metre line.
37 min: Dragons trying a movement before the last tackle as Boyd almost getting a clean line break, passing to the right but Stanley wrapped up by Duffie.
38 min: Great defence from the Storm, as the Dragons held on the last and Soward failing to get to his kick.
39 min: Penalty to the Storm on the last play. Penalty goal not opted with. Cam Smith tapping it. Storm attacking inside their 10 metr eline.
39 min: Another penalty to the Storm against Michael Weyman. Now Cam Smith will take the shot at goal.
40 min: PENALTY GOAL
GOAL! Thanks to the second penalty to the Storm in the space of a tackle. Cameron Smith slots the penalty goal to get the lead for the first time at the break. Storm in front 8-6.
Melbourne Storm 8-6
HALFTIME: The Melbourne Storm holding strong in the first half to claim a 2 point lead at the break. The Dragons had their opportunities through out the half as they opted to continually attack the right hand side of the Storm's defensive line. It was successful on one attempt as Kyle Stanley crossed thanks to a forward pass which was missed by the officials. The Storm after the try picked up their game and got on a roll and their defence just as good as their attack. The Melbourne side top on and continued pressure will win them the game.
On the injury front, both sides are down to 16 men for the remainder of the game.
Both sides running back onto the back. Second half about to kick off.
40 min: TIME ON! Dragons kicking off firstly for Lowe hitting up the ball first in this second half.
41 min: Good metres early from the Storm as the kick from Billy Slater going high and falling down to Kyle Stanley who was collected by Beau Champion. He gives away a penalty for his efforts. Dragons working the ball out from their 40 metre line.
42 min: Dragons not finished targeting Anthony Quinn despite the change of ends. Last set and the Dragons running it down to him and kicking away to find Slater.
43 min: Beau Champion running into the line of the Dragons, but he dropped it cold, but got part of his leg on it. Dragons have it inside halfway.
44 min: Soward's kick is allowed to roll dead and a 20 metre tap taken for the Storm. Melbourne are on top clearly now.
45 min: Beau Champion coughing up the ball again, not the first tonight. Scrum feed with the Dragons on the Storm 40 metre line.
46 min: Dragons throwing the ball around at the Storm line, however the ball from Cooper almost landing in the arms of the touch judge. Over the sideline it goes, Scrum feed with the Storm.
47 min: Penalty to the Storm thanks for a strip on Gareth Widdop. Storm attacking just inside their 40 metre line.
48 min: Dragons defence holding strong, Billy Slater opening them up. However Widdop's kick finds the arms of Hornby easily.
50 min: A massive kick from Widdop and it was allowed to bounce. Jamie Soward is in Disneyland at the moment. Time off.
50 min: The tackle on Soward not ruled to be in the air, the rule stating if the ball bounces it is no longer a air-tackle.
51 min: KNOCK ON! Scrum feed to the Dragons as Quinn was smashed into the ground and losing control.
53 min: Wonderful play from Rory Kostjasyn, the ball not on for the Dragons as the ball when out the back and Kostjasyn hungry for it dives and collects it on his 20 metre line.
54 min: Diving kick downfield from Widdop and collected on the full by Jason Nightingale, who is showing signs of cram now. Sika Manu is back on for the Storm after he came off early in the game with a groin strain.
55 min: Brillant take! Matt Duffie leaping high to take the kick from Soward. Dragons showing some attack in the set, however it was defuse by great cover defence from the Storm.
55 min: The referees putting the whistle away as Ben Creagh hit Duffie with a high shot, not ruled on. Kick down field to the Dragons.
56 min: Looked like scrum was going to the Dragons, however a forward pass ruled against the Dragons before the Duffie knock on. Storm attacking 15 metres from the line.
58 min: Jamie Soward forcing the ball in goals, line drop out for the Storm. Billy Slater had an opportunity to score if Slater popped it out the back on the 4th, but not to be.
60 min: Cameron Smith opting to the blind side to Anthony Quinn, however it was forced into touch. Dragons will pack a scrum.
61 min: Ben Hornby on the last kicking downfield and rolling dead over the sideline. Storm with the 20m tap.
62 min: Slater opens up the Dragons line and making 40 metres. Storm well in control. Attacking only 15 metres from theline.
63 min: Beautiful work from the Storm, Beau Champion redeeming himself with a great grubber kick in goals and the covering defence forcing Stanley back in goals.
64 min: Another controlling set from the Storm. Cameron Smith nice grubber in goals to get to Daruis Boyd and runs dead. Drop out for the Storm. Also in this set, Beau Champion so close to the line.
66 min: KNOCK ON! Reaching out for the line and Billy Slater losing control of the ball. Knock on the ball in his attempt to score. Dragons with the scrum feed on their 10 metre line.
68 min: KNOCK ON! Storm putting the Dragons under a lot of pressure. A poor pass from Soward making green lose the ball. Storm another set inside the Dragons 30 metre line.
68 min: Dragons defence holding together in the set, as Slater pushing the balll wide to the left but Matt Duffie failing to control ball and going dead. Dragons with another scrum on their 20 metre line.
69 min: Billy Slater slipping as he caught the ball on the full. However running it out to the 20 metre line.
70 min: Widdop throwing the ball away looking for Slater, but failing to do so. Dragons with the ball through Boyd.
71 min: Another error from the Dragons, dropping it cold. Storm back on the attack again inside the Dragons half.
72 min: Flying high was Matt Duffie as he attempted to grab the ball, but going into touch.
73 min: Dragons under pressure as they lose it thanks for a nice hit from behind from Cam Smith on Soward.
Possible crowd record here in AAMI Park, tonight it stands at 24,081 to watch this great NRL clash.
75 min: Dragons not out of this clash yet. They attack inside the 20 of the Storm.
75 min: Another poor pass from the Dragons, forward pass/knock on the ball at the Storm line. It's not their night the Dragons. Scrum feed on the 10 metre line for the Storm.
76 min: Daruis Boyd alone at the back, Billy Slater kicking nicely downfield to the goals and Boyd was met by 4 defenders.
76 min: Another poor ball from Boyd, making a break and then trying to throw the ball around Storm line. But the touch touch getting the ball. Scrum with the Storm.
78 min: Controlled kick from Gareth Widdop, rolling the ball into touch. Scrum feed to the Dragons. They quickly pack the scrum and time off.
79 min: Dragons can't put another together tonight. Pushing the forward pass to the right and Stanley can't get it. Scrum feed with the Storm. 49 seconds remaining and time is off.
80 min: FULLTIME! Cameron Smith tapping it over the sideline to give the Storm their 12th straight win. Tonight they have defeated the Dragons 8-6 in Billy Slater's 200th match.