Storm make it four in a row

Melbourne Storm has cast aside injury to record its fourth successive National Rugby League victory tonight, downing the Wests Tigers 30-24 at Olympic Park.

The Storm lost key playmaker Scott Hill prior to kick-off after the former Test lock suffered back spasms at training on Friday night, before stand-in five-eighth Matt Geyer was forced from the field at the start of the second half with a severe gash to his left shin.

The injuries failed to rattle the home side as Melbourne overpowered Wests with a five tries-to-four-win in a bruising encounter that saw both sides suffer an extensive injury toll, including the loss of Tigers teen sensation Benji Marshall.

Marshall is in doubt for the rest of the season after suffering a suspected dislocated shoulder in the second half, but he wasn?t the only player to endure injury, Storm fullback Billy Slater copped a broken nose, as did the Tigers? Mark O?Neill and Luke Covell.

Despite giving up the majority of possession in the first term the Storm went into the break up 16-12 before launching a 25-minute assault on the Tigers in the second half that yielded two tries and two penalties.

?It was a tough game, we expected that and we got that,? Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

?Looking at the scoreboard you?d probably think the defence wasn?t great but it was a real tough game and we?ve got a few bruised and battered bodies in there and I?d imagine they?ve got the same.

?We were just happy to get out on the right end of it.?

Bellamy was full of praise for his troops after the Storm withstood the Tigers? first half onslaught before assuming control early in the second.

?There was a lot of pressure on us in that first half, we spent a lot of time in our half and we spent a lot of time in our own 20-metre zone,? Bellamy added.

?To go in halftime after that, I thought it was a tremendous effort, I thought the guys defended well all night.?

After setting up a four-point buffer at halftime, the Storm raced to a commanding 30-12 lead mid way through the second stanza before the Tigers pulled the scoreline back with two late tries in the dying minutes. Billy Slater scored 11 minutes into the match following quick hands from Geyer and a smart sidestep from the young fullback that left Marshall flat-footed and out of position.

For the next 15 minutes the Storm repelled wave after wave of pressure from the Tigers who enjoyed plenty of ball. Melbourne?s defence finally broke when Tigers front-rower Anthony Laffranchi crashed over from dummy half.

Minutes after Laffranchi?s try, the Storm hit back through Steven Bell who received a miraculous one-handed off-load from winger Dustin Cooper who had tip-toed along the sideline before flipping a miracle ball out to the waiting centre.

From the restart of play, half back Matt Orford stamped his authority on the game. The dynamic playmaker beat five would-be tacklers to push his team deep into Tigers territory. He then held up a beautiful short ball for replacement Dallas Johnson, who scored under the posts to put the Storm up 16-6. But the Tigers refused to lie down and scored in the shadows of halftime through centre Shane Elford. Brett Hodgson?s conversion made it 16-12.

The Storm?s David Kidwell took little time to extend Melbourne?s lead in the second term, scoring three minutes after the break, bustling over from dummy half.

Orford then gave his team a commanding 22-12 lead after he slotted a penalty goal in front of the uprights. Ten minutes later Melbourne was up 24-12 thanks again to Orford?s boot.

The Storm No.6 was finding it hard to stay out of the game, and a grubber close to the line saw Robbie Kearns pounce on a loose ball that Tigers fullback Hodgson had failed to clean up.

Two tries in the final five minutes, including an 80-metre touch down, added some respectability to the scoreline for Wests but the contest had been won following the Storm?s 25-miunte blitz in the second half.

DETAILS STORM 30 Tries: Slater 1, Bell 1, Johnson 1, Kidwell 1, Kearns 1 Goals: Smith 2/4, Orford 3/4 (2 pen. gls.)

TIGERS 24 Tries: Laffranchi 1, Elford 1, Fitzhenry 1, Galea 1 Goals: Hodgson 4/4

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