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The Wests Tigers were unable to farewell English-bound second rower Gareth Ellis with a win as they crashed out of finals contention, going down 26-6 at Leichardt Oval. It was a much improved performance from last week for the Melbourne Storm, though despite the ease of victory on the scoreboard they still looked less than the polished product Craig Bellamy would be hoping for going into the finals.
Despite a poor showing in the first half the Tigers went into the break down by just four points, the 10-6 scoreline not reflective of the performances of both sides in the opening 40 minutes.
A villain last week with his poor handling, it was Sika Manu that opened the scoring for the visitors after 17 minutes. The Tigers were mounting pressure on the Storm line, but a wayward pass from Benji Marshall was scooped up by winger Sisa Waqa. The speed-man looked up to see nothing in front of him, but he looked positively pedestrian as Tigers' rookie Marika Koroibete mowed him down. With Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk directing the ship the Storm kept their heads, shifting the ball quickly to the left to catch the Tigers short in defence. Dane Nielsen slipped through Matt Utai's tackle, linking with Manu inside for the opening points of the game.
Despite penalties in three consecutive sets the Tigers looked unable to build any sort of pressure on the Melbourne line, and it was again errors that let Melbourne off the hook and opened up the opportunity for their second try. Junior Moors' otherwise strong performance was dented by a knock-on in a strong tackle from Kevin Proctor, and from the scrum the Storm immediately looked right to Sika Waqa down the line. The Tigers' cover defence was equal to the task, Waqa's desperation pass in-field finding only Benji Marshall. The Tigers looked to be safe, only for Marshall to come up with another brain snap pass, the Storm pouncing on the opportunity with Proctor finishing the period of play he had started when he carried defenders over the line for a try.
Strong runs from Matt Utai and Ben Murdoch-Masila put the Tigers into good attacking position, and when Junior Moors broke through the line Benji Marshall was in support to register the Tigers' first points for the game. Marshall converted his own try to give the Tigers a sniff, the scoreline unchanged for the final 5 minutes of the half.
After some disappointing showings with ball in hand in the first half Marshall produced better off his boot to open the second, his long kicking finding turf on several occasions to put the Tigers on top in the battle for field position. The Storm were able to withstand a strong opening 15 minutes from the home side, and were rewarded midway through the second half when Cronk and Slater combined to increase their lead. A quick play the ball presented Cooper Cronk with plenty of time, and with Slater screaming through on the inside chipped over the defensive line. Slater was able to out-jump Tim Moltzen, batting the ball back for Brian Norrie who ducked low to force his way over for a try.
Key plays came from unexpected sources to well and truly re-assert the Storm ascendancy, Mahe Fonua taking a superb take above his head before his wing partner Sisa Waqa's chase on a long Cronk kick trapped Tim Moltzen in-goal for a drop out. The Storm attack was below its best on the following set, passes missing their mark and others finding flat-footed attackers, but it was nearly capped by a try nonetheless when Dane Nielsen went close in the corner, Tony Archer ruling he'd come up short when the video referee referral came back ref's call. The Tigers defence hang off Cameron Smith as he ran from dummy half two plays later, opening up space for a rampaging Ryan Hoffman to force his way over the line. Smith converted and, at 22-6, the Tigers' finals hopes looked well and truly extinguished.
Mahe Fonua went just as close 5 minutes later when Matt Utai was slow to clean up Dane Nielsen's grubber, but the diminutive Tigers winger was able to ground the ball before the chasers could reach him. There was more joy on the other side of the field minutes later for the Storm, a disjointed attacking sequence ending in Cronk finding Sisa Waqa with a cut-out ball. Waqa was able to cut inside his opposite number, beating the covering Tigers defence to score and cap a strong individual performance.
The loss means the Tigers will not be playing in the finals regardless of other results over the weekend, while the Storm's last-ditch minor premiership bid was thwarted with the Bulldogs prevailing in the other Super Saturday 7:30 game. With the top four now decided Melbourne will finish in second position, and host the Rabbitohs at AAMI Park next weekend in the 2 v 3 match. The winner of that game goes through to week three, with the loser taking on a week 1 winner from the bottom 4 teams at home. The Tigers, meanwhile, will be heading to mad monday celebrations.
Wests Tigers 6 were defeated by Melbourne Storm 26
National Rugby League - Round 26 - Saturday September 1, 2012 7:30pm
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Referee: Tony Archer and Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Paul Simpkins
Touch Judges: Jeff Younis and Adam Reid
Halftime: Wests Tigers 6 Melbourne Storm 10
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Sisa Waqa (1 Try)
2 Points - Cooper Cronk
1 Point - Bryan Norrie (1 Try)
WESTS TIGERS (6)
Tries: Benji Marshall
Conversions: Benji Marshall (1/1)
MELBOURNE STORM (26)
Tries: Ryan Hoffman, Bryan Norrie, Sika Manu, Kevin Proctor, Sisa Waqa
Conversions: Cameron Smith (3/4), Gareth Widdop (0/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening league fans, and welcome to live updates of the last Super Saturday for the year. Leichardt Oval hosts this clash between the Wests Tigers and the Melbourne Storm. Both teams are desperately chasing a win here tonight and for results to go their way over the rest of the weekend: the Storm need a win and a Bulldogs loss tonight to claim the Minor Premiership, while two points for the Tigers tonight would keep their narrow finals hopes alive, dependant on the outcome of the Raiders' clash in NZ tomorrow.
In team news tonight the Tigers will run out 1-17 as named earlier in the week. There are changes for the Storm, but coach Craig Bellamy has elected not to rest his stars going into the finals series. Justin O'Neill and Anthony Quinn are out of the Storm backline, replaced by Dane Nielsen and Mahe Fonua, who is making his second NRL appearance. In the forwards Jason Ryles is out and Ryan Hoffman moves to the bench, bringing Bryan Norrie and Kevin Proctor into the starting side. Richie Fa'aoso joins the bench.
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Gareth Ellis leads out the Black and Golds in what could be his last game in the jumper, before he heads back to the ESL.
1 min: Tim Moltzen kicks off and we're underway!
2 min: Both teams with solid, safe opening sets in the greasy conditions.
3 min: Cooper Cronk finds Gareth Widdop with an inside ball, and he busts the line. He's brought down by Tim Moltzen 15m out.
4 min: The cross-field kick is fumbled by a leaping Fonua, 20m tap Tigers.
4 min: The Tigers break the line in similar fashion, Moltzen finding space off a short ball.
5 min: Tim Moltzen's stabbing kick to the Melbourne in-goal is just too long, and Slater watches it as it goes dead.
6 min: Tim Moltzen is driven back by a good Melbourne kick chase, and they have the presence of mind to not take him into the in-goal as held is called.
6 min: Mahe Fonua makes good metres down the left edge, carrying a couple of Tigers defenders.
7 min: Cameron Smith looked to have knocked on, but backwards is the call.
7 min: Cooper Cronk's cross-field kick is easily taken by Blake Ayshford, but the Storm defence wraps him up and pushes him back into the in-goal.
8 min: Melbourne building pressure off the drop-out.
9 min: Cronk's grubber to the Tigers' in-goal is too hard, beating everyone over the dead ball line.
10 min: Penalty to Wests! Masada Iosefa is penalised for being too slow in the play the ball.
Cameron Smith fails to find touch with the kick!
11 min: Smith's uncharacteristic blunder puts the Tigers on the attack, 20m out.
12 min: The Storm survive their first test of the game, Lawrence's grubber beating his winger to go dead in goal. Storm 20m tap.
13 min: Penalty to Wests! Mahe Fonua is penalised for a second effort in the tackle on Matt Utai.
14 min: Strong runs from the Tigers' forwards march them upfield, they're attacking the Melbourne line.
14 min: The ball was rolling around just short of the line, and when the Tigers came up with it 6 to go was the call. Attacking the Melbourne line.
15 min: Sisa Waqa takes off upfield after pouncing on a wayward pass, but he's mowed down from behind by Marika Koroibete! Melbourne attacking from 30m out.
17 min: TRY
TRY MELBOURNE STORM!
After Waqa's run on the right the ball is spread quickly to the left, Dane Nielsen slipping from Matt Utai's grasp and finding Sika Manu on the inside for a try. Cameron Smith's conversion is just wide.
Melbourne Storm 4-0
19 min: Knock on Melbourne! Jesse Bromwich broke the line and carried Gareth Ellis downfield, but Ellis manages to knock the ball loose and the Tigers come up with it.
20 min: Penalty to Wests! Benji Marshall's attempted grubber is blocked by Gareth Widdop, but Sika Manu is pinged for offside. The pressure builds on the Melbourne line.
20 min: Penalty to Wests! A strong run from Junior Moors results in Sika Manu coming up with the ball, but it's deemed a strip.
21 min: Penalty to Wests! A third penalty in a row to Tigers for slowing the play the ball.
21 min: The ball spills free, this time it's ruled to have been a one-on-one strip, and the Tigers let Melbourne off the hook.
22 min: Penalty to Melbourne! Adam Blair is penalised for a high tackle on Jaiman Lowe, who comes up a little groggy.
22 min: Cameron Smith finds touch with the kick. Melbourne attack from 20m out.
22 min: Knock on Melbourne! Billy Slater looks outside and finds Will Chambers, but the Tigers defence pushed up quickly and he couldn't control the pass. Tigers off the hook this time, and will run it out from 10m out.
24 min: Knock on Wests! A body tackle from Kevin Proctor sees the ball forced from Junior Moors' grasp.
24 min: From the scrum Melbourne goes wide, Sisa Waqa setting off down the touchline. He throws the ball in-field and the Tigers clean it up, but on the counterattack Benji Marshall has coughed it up again with a poor pass.
25 min: TRY
TRY MELBOURNE STORM!
From Marshall's error the Storm go straight back on the attack, Kevin Proctor carrying defenders over the line to score! Smith's conversion is successful.
Melbourne Storm 10-0
28 min: Benji Marshall kicks for and finds touch 10m out from the Storm line. Melbourne will ruck it out off the scrum.
30 min: Richie Fa'aoso and Brian Norrie make strong runs in successive plays.
31 min: Cooper Cronk dummies and finds space in the defensive line, linking with Nielsen who kicks ahead. Slater soccers it forward but it goes dead.
31 min: The Tigers kick early from the 20m tap, very nearly catching the Melbourne defence napping.
32 min: Melbourne again threaten down the left, but Dane Nielsen's pass is overrun by the rookie Fonua and rolls into touch.
33 min: Matt Utai with a strong run off the scrum.
33 min: Penalty to Wests! Melbourne defenders are penalised for not moving quickly enough in the play the ball.
It's a sign of the Tigers' luck tonight as Marshall fails to find touch with the penalty kick!
34 min: Kevin Proctor makes a burst, Melbourne looking dangerous on both sides of the field.
35 min: Possible try to Mahe Fonua! Dane Nielsen challenged for Cronk's cross-field kick. The ball strick his arm and comes down to Mahe Fonua, who claims a try. The video referee will be consulted as to whether there was a knock on.
35 min: After only a couple of looks the ruling is NO TRY! A knock-on ruled off Dane Nielsen.
36 min: Chris Lawrence shanks a kick under pressure, the ball going further sideways than forward. Melbourne will resume 35m out from their own line.
37 min: Knock on Melbourne! Jaiman Lowe's offload is fumbled by Ryan Hinchcliffe around his ankles.
38 min: Matt Utai with a strong run, followed by another from Ben Murdoch-Masila.
39 min: TRY
TRY WESTS TIGERS!
Junior Moors busts the line with a strong run, finding Benji Marshall in support who is able to stretch out for the Tigers' opening points. Marshall's conversion of his own try is successful.
Melbourne Storm 10-6
After a poor showing in the first half, the Tigers will be happy to go into the break only four points down. Whether they can continue their momentum heading into the second half will be key to their fortunes tonight.
41 min: Cameron Smith's relatively short kickoff requires a diving take from Chris Lawrence, and he's equal to the task.
41 min: Marshall's first kick of the half is slightly too big, but the Tigers look to have started this second half as they finished the first.
43 min: Marshall's second kick is considerably better, finding touch a metre out from the Storm line after a strong set from the Tigers' forwards.
45 min: Again held is called as Melbourne are driving a player toward the in-goal, and again they have the presence of mind to hold him up.
45 min: Marshall again finds touch with his clearing kick. In bad news for Storm fans, Will Chambers has returned to the dressing room with a suspected hamstring injury.
47 min: Penalty to Melbourne! Beau Ryan is penalised, not square at marker. The Storm will attack from the Tigers' 40m line.
48 min: Sika Manu's flick offload a metre from the Tigers line finds Waqa on the wing, but Koroibete produces a brilliant try-saving tackle in the corner to take him into touch.
49 min: Billy Slater takes a difficult bomb a metre out from his own line, the breeze blowing it behind him at the last minute.
50 min: A hamstring injury confirmed for Will Chambers - he won't be back tonight.
51 min: Blake Ayshford makes some good metres down the right for the Tigers.
51 min: Sisa Waqa flies high to take a difficult catch, 15m out from his own line.
52 min: Matt Utai smashes through Proctor's attempted tackle, making good metres before he's brought down.
52 min: A break in play for a blood bin for the Tigers, Keith Galloway leaving the field with a heavy cut on his nose after a head clash.
54 min: Knock on Melbourne! Sisa Waqa was challenged by Marshall's grubbing kick, and though it looked like he trapped it well with his knees the call is knock on. The Tigers will attack from 10m out from the Storm line.
56 min: Masada Iosefa is held up over the line.
56 min: Knock on Wests! Chris Lawrence is unable to control Benji Marshall's short ball, and the pressure is off the Storm.
57 min: Possible try to Brian Norrie! Cooper Cronk chipped over the top with Slater pushing through. Slater goes high above Moltzen and knocks it back to Brian Norrie, who uses the prop's sidestep to bash over for a try. Video ref checking onside and grounding.
57 min: TRY
TRY MELBOURNE STORM!
Cronk takes the ball to the line and chipped over, Slater bats it back for Norrie to score. The video ref sees no problem with it and Smith's conversion is successful.
Melbourne Storm 16-6
60 min: Penalty to Wests! One of the Storm chasers are penalised for being offside off Cooper Cronk's bomb.
61 min: Knock on Melbourne! Benji Marshall's flick pass is pounced upon by the Storm defence, but an under-pressure Jesse Bromwich puts it down.
62 min: Mahe Fonua produces a great take to diffuse Benji Marshall's cross-field bomb.
64 min: Cooper Cronk's kick from inside his 40m line didn't take the bounce wanted for a 40/20, but Sisa Waqa's superb chase traps Tim Moltzen in the in-goal.
65 min: Possible try to Dane Nielsen! The video referee will be asked to check grounding in the corner.
65 min: No try! The decision comes back Ref's call, and Tony Archer rules Nielsen came up short. Melbourne continue the attack.
67 min: TRY
TRY MELBOURNE STORM!
There's no doubt about this one, Ryan Hoffman running a beautiful line off Cameron Smith and muscling past Gareth Ellis to score. Cameron Smith's conversion is successful.
Melbourne Storm 22-6
67 min: The short kick-off comes up trumps for the Tigers, coming off Melbourne hands back into their grasp.
68 min: Marika Koroibete looked to have found some space on the edge, but Sisa Waqa is more than up to the task, bundling him into touch.
69 min: The pet outside-inside ball sees Slater find some space, but he's brought down in a swinging tackle.
70 min: Quick hands from the Tigers puts Beau Ryan in some space, but the Storm defence is again up to it.
70 min: Knock on Wests! Ayshford takes a pass behind him on the right, fumbling the ball and again Melbourne are off the hook.
72 min: Benji Marshall is pinged for a forward pass to Chris Lawrence.
72 min: A strong run from Bryan Norrie ends a metre short of the line. He reached out but was pulled back.
73 min: Possible try to Storm! The video referee checking a range of things, including possible blocking from Gareth Ellis and, most importantly, a simultaneous grounding from Mahe Fonue. Matt Utai was slow in cleaning up Dane Nielsen's second kick.
73 min: Penalty to Melbourne! The decision is no try, but Gareth Ellis is penalised for an illegal block on Ryan Hoffman chasing Cronk's original bomb.
75 min: Melbourne not being as clinical as they may have hoped, loose offloads and cross-field running features of their tryline attack so far.
77 min: TRY
TRY MELBOURNE STORM!
Cooper Cronk dances inside and out, finding Sisa Waqa on the wing. Waqa cuts inside to leave Marika Koroibete grasping at thin air, crossing for a try to cap a strong performance. Gareth Widdop's conversion swings back to hit the upright, no goal.
Melbourne Storm 26-6
77 min: The short kickoff finds Sisa Waqa uncontested, who beats two before offloading for Slater to make more ground.
78 min: Penalty to Wests! Richie Fa'aoso hands the ball over with a poor pass, and the Storm are penalised for being too slow in the play the ball.
79 min: Penalty to Wests! Melbourne concede a penalty for a ruck infringement, attacking the Melbourne line.
79 min: Quick hands inside produced space on the edge for the Tigers, but Ben Murdoch-Masila's looping pass killed the opportunity.
80 min: Beau Ryan's grubber behind the defence traps the Melbourne defence in-goal.
80 min: The game ends in confusion as both sides look for one last score, Cronk scooping up a loose pass but finding only Adam Blair with his own. The ball goes to ground and is booted into touch to end the game, the Storm prevailing 26-6.