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The Melbourne Storm have grinded out a typically tough win in Auckland this afternoon, running out 22-12 victors over home side the Warriors in front of a bumper 20,487 Mt Smart Stadium crowd.
It was all the hosts early, two early tries told the story for the Warriors as they launched a bid to reclaim the Michael Moore Trophy after a Round 8 ANZAC Day loss to the Storm earlier this season. A 12-0 lead through tries on each edge (Hurrell and Vatuvei crossing respectively) had the visiting side on the back foot.
As invariably happens in the NRL lately, a momentum shift to the losing side led to the Storm edging within two of the Warriors following two tries - one easy four-pointer for Gareth Widdop, followed by a controversial ruling to give Jaiman Lowe one of his own. At this point the Storm had begun steaming up the middle of the Warriors defence like a rolling pin. A halftime penalty goal attempt could have levelled the scores for the Storm, but Cam Smith pushed it wide.
The second half was typically close, and it started relatively error-free as the Warriors clung to their lead. Both sides couldn't apply the finishing touch until another touch-and-go ruling on a forward pass, this time in the Storm's favour, saw Will Chambers stroll over without being touched to claim the Storm the lead.
Melbourne went on to hold the Warriors out for the remainder of the game despite both sides coming to the party with uncharacteristic errors. Ultimately it was a Manu Vatuvei brain explosion which saw the Storm pick the ball up and run in the opposite direction - Billy Slater busting through several chasing defenders before finding Cam Smith inside him to finish the game off with a comfortable 10-point margin.
An injury around 25 minutes into the match for the Warriors to fullback Glen Fisiiahi may have contributed to the home side giving up momentum, forcing a reshuffle for a number of players which pushed five-eighth James Maloney to the custodian role. While Fisiiahi returned to the park early in the second stanza, the momentum was already with the Storm who went on to nail the two competition points and extend their lead at the head of the competition, at least temporarily, to eight points.
Next week the Storm head home to host the Wests Tigers in Friday night footy, while the Warriors are at Penrith's Centrebet Stadium on Monday evening football, a special Queen's Birthday 5:30pm kickoff.
New Zealand Warriors 12 were defeated by Melbourne Storm 22
National Rugby League - Round 13 - Sunday June 3, 2012 2:00pm
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
Referee: Matt Cecchin and Adam Devcich
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Adam Gee
Halftime: New Zealand Warriors 12 Melbourne Storm 10
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Billy Slater
2 Points - Shaun Johnson
1 Point - James Maloney (2 Conversions)
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS (12)
Tries: Manu Vatuvei, Konrad Hurrell
Conversions: James Maloney (2/2)
MELBOURNE STORM (22)
Tries: Jaiman Lowe, Cameron Smith, Will Chambers, Gareth Widdop
Conversions: Cameron Smith (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Cameron Smith (0/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary A good crowd in prospect for the Warriors as they face the Storm. It was of course the Warriors who eliminated the high-flying Storm from the 2011 premiership a week before the Grand Final, and despite an ANZAC Day triumph for the Storm this season already, the Warriors are highly rated as a chance here today.
Toyota Cup finished convincingly for the reigning premiers - the Warriors held the Storm out 30-8 after leading 24-4 at halftime.
TEAM CHANGES - the home side are 1-17, with the Storm making a couple of shifts and changes. Michael Greenfield is OUT, with Siosaia Vave replacing him. Positionally, Rory Kostjasyn will start at lock, with #13 Todd Lowrie moving to the second row, and #11 Ryan Hinchcliffe dropping back to the bench. Hit the Team List tab above to see the full lineups. Out trot the two teams for this one - the Warriors in their black strip with the white and red V's, the Storm in their white away strip, with major partner Crown replaced by the Shane Warne Foundation for the trip across the Tasman, where overseas gambling & betting agencies aren't permitted to advertise.
Melbourne get us underway, Warriors with the ball first.
1 min: Good first set from the Warriors sees them put the ball into touch and force a Storm scrum feed 15m from their own line.
6 min: Superb metres from the Warriors and they'll attack now.
7 min: TRY
TRY New Zealand Warriors
Scored by Konrad Hurrell. Conversion attempt by James Maloney successful.
Superb hands out to Hurrell and a slip from Storm winger Matt Duffie see the Warriors open the scoring - Maloney superb with his touchline conversion.
New Zealand Warriors 6-0
8 min: Kickoff almost muffed completely by Shaun Johnson, but the Warriors recover with Vatuvei steaming forward with the ball. Johnson a bit ginger after that error.
9 min: Helpful penalty for the Storm now just as they enter the Warriors half. Full set starting 20m out for the visitors.
11 min: A Storm error sees the Warriors with the ball, then the visitors concede a penalty.
13 min: A Storm error on the last gives the Warriors a scrumfeed, then at the end of that set, the Storm are penalised for running a block on Manu Vatuvei. Warriors really heaping on the pressure here.
16 min: TRY
TRY New Zealand Warriors
Scored by Manu Vatuvei. Conversion attempt by James Maloney successful.
This time they go left and Johnson finds Vatuvei with a BRILLIANT cutout pass. Maloney again perfect from out wide.
New Zealand Warriors 12-0
18 min: The Warriors go close again, keeping the Storm on the back foot, but Slater's desperate defence stops the try out wide. Penalty Storm now gets them out of their own end.
20 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Gareth Widdop. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
Feeble defence from the hosts there sees Widdop stroll through the line on the Storm's first real foray into the Warriors 20m zone. Smith converts easily.
New Zealand Warriors 12-6
23 min: Big break up the guts by Billy Slater, the Storm are run down but the Warriors retreating defence can't stop the visitors claiming a try on the next tackle. VIDEO REFEREE checking obstruction and grounding.
24 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Jaiman Lowe. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful.
Jaiman Lowe scores the try after the video referee referred the decision back to the man in the middle. Devcich awards the four-pointer, Smith doesn't convert though. Warriors by two.
New Zealand Warriors 12-10
26 min: Glen Fisiiahi down and struggling for the Warriors, they're back in attacking territory.
28 min: Fifth tackle grubber forces Matt Duffie to take the ball dead after a spirited attempt at dodging Warriors chasers. Drop-out.
30 min: Another drop-out forced by the Warriors, this time making Duffie knock it dead off a towering bomb.
32 min: More good metres from the Storm, line breaks again giving them good field position at the back end of the set... but the Warriors stop the rot and get the ball back on the last.
35 min: Penalty Warriors for a strip on Vatuvei - good chance for the Warriors nearing halfway.
37 min: Consecutive penalties for the Storm and then they tear up the left edge before Slater is almost forced into touch... he tosses it in-field and Mannering puts it into touch. Storm scrum 10m out!
40 min: PENALTY GOAL ATTEMPT
Cameron Smith takes a penalty goal attempt as we hear the siren in the background following Simon Mannering's offside tackle out wide. No good, Warriors keep a 12-10 lead into the halftime break.
New Zealand Warriors 12-10
That's oranges at Mt Smart - the Warriors dominated early while the Storm are throwing everything at them after falling behind in the first twenty. Top class game of footy so far. 41 min: Second half begins with the Storm carrying the ball first.
43 min: Warriors steaming up the park early in this second half, making plenty of metres every tackle. Storm struggling to get their defensive line set.
44 min: A Warriors error 20m from the Storm line relieves the pressure on the visitors, while the Storm commit an error of their own once inside the Warriors' territory.
45 min: A ricochet off a Storm defender on halfway gives the Warriors another set, starting now on halfway.
46 min: Bomb goes up, O'Neill comes down with it, Storm 20m restart on the last.
47 min: Disappointing for the Storm, Billy Slater bursting down the middle but the ball to him ruled a forward pass. Flat at best... not a great call there.
51 min: Penalty piggybacks the Warriors out of their own half and into attacking territory. Fisiiahi comes back onto the field after the earlier injury.
52 min: Hurrell spills it down the right just as the Warriors looked to have the numbers. 55 min: Slater spills it on halfway - the following set results in nothing for the Warriors though.
57 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Will Chambers. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
Inside ball, this time could've been called back for a forward pass, and Chambers strolls over untouched to give the Storm the lead for the first time today. Smith converts.
Melbourne Storm 16-12
60 min: Melbourne rolling up the park, putting through the hands, but the last pass doesn't stick and it's a Warriors scrum 20m from their own line.
64 min: Warriors passing loosely and Bromwich for the Storm ALMOST picked that up and ran away to score, but the drop ball... lucky for the home side. Warriors scrum 25m from their own line.
69 min: Both sides going end-to-end, very tense football being played by both sides, trying to control their sets... until now. Vatuvei steams up the right touchline but can't turn the ball inside before getting put in touch. Storm scrum on halfway.
72 min: Huge run from Shaun Johnson after fielding a Cronk cross-field kick, makes it into Storm territory. Following set las ttackle. ends up in the arms of Storm winger Matt Duffie.
75 min: Vatuvei with a match-losing error it would appear, he's run down the left again and this time throws the ball back inside - the Storm come up with it, Slater busts through several tackles before finding Cam Smith to score.
76 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Cameron Smith. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
That's the game for the Storm - Smith scores the try off the Slater bust and the margin is ten points with four left.
Melbourne Storm 22-12
77 min: Warriors break down the right, ball inside this time forces an error from the Storm. Warriors scrum just short of halfway.
80 min: That will do us at Mt Smart, the Storm have won a terrific contest, the Warriors just with too many errors toward the back end of the second half.