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The Melbourne Storm have opened their premiership defence in style with a convincing 32-18 victory over the New Zealand Warriors in blistering heat at the Telstra Dome this evening.
The Warriors were well in the game and trailed by only four points at half time and looked to be gaining the upper hand over the Storm. The heat however caught up with the Warriors in the second half and they crumbled badly in the latter stages of the match, making silly mistakes and giving away far too many penalties to ever mount a comeback.
The Warriors lost Steve Price early but the Storm also lost Ryan Hoffman to injury in a round that saw a lot of high profile players sustain serious injuries including Craig Wing, Benji Marshall and Steve Simpson.
For the Storm, Billy Slater was the hero, bagging a hat trick in the first game of the year while for the Warriors, enigmatic winger Manu Vatuvei scored two great tries but had a horror night under the high ball, spilling several bombs that cost the Warriors dearly.
One of the talking points of the night will be the tardy behaviour of the Melbourne Storm, who treated themselves to an eighteen minute half time break that should draw a hefty fine from the NRL and above all else it was a poor display of sportsmanship from the defending premiers.
Overall, the Storm were too good for the Warriors but they were far from perfect and coach Craig Bellamy still needs to tweak a few things for the Storm to back to the brilliant best.
Melbourne Storm 32 vs New Zealand Warriors 18 Round 1 - Full Time :: March 17th, 2008 7:00pm Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne Referee: Ben Cummins
Melbourne Storm (32) Tries: Billy Slater (3), Dallas Johnson, Sam Tagataese Goals: Cameron Smith (5/6), Steve Turner (1/1) New Zealand Warriors (18) Tries: Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei (2) Goals: Michael Witt (3/3)
1 min: We are underway at a steamy Telstra Dome in Melbourne.
2 min: Manu Vatuvei drops a Melbourne kick so the Storm will have another set of six just on their own side of half way.
5 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Cameron Smith darts from dummy half on the last tackle and throws a speculator for Billy Slater to score adjacent to the posts to give the Storm an ideal start. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-0
9 min: Possible try to the Warriors...
9 min: No try. Simon Mannering knocked on over the line with a 20 metre restart for the Storm.
11 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Billy Slater gets a double after the Warriors put down a bomb and the Storm with a repeast set of six were always going to be hard to stop. Slater showed great speed to burn Vatuvei on the outside. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 10-0
14 min: Aiden Kirk makes a strong run back from a Melbourne kick, showing shades of his predecessor Wade McKinnon.
17 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warriors have struck back through a kick by Nathan Fien which came off Vatuvei back for Ropati to cross out wide. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Melbourne Storm 10-6
22 min: Steve Turner tries to outrun Vatuvei on the outside but the big Kiwi was equal to the task, flinging Turner into touch.
26 min: Possible try to the Storm...
26 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Slater gets a hat trick in his first match of the year and will be the player to beat for leading try scorer assuming he stays fit all year. A great try off a precision kick from Folau to Turner who then threw an inside ball for Slater to score his third for the match. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 16-6
29 min: Possible try to the Storm...
29 min: No try. Multiple knock ons by the Storm.
32 min: The Warriors are starting to show signs of fatigue in the latter stages of the first half and considering the oppressive heat, you can hardly blame them.
35 min: Possible try to the Warriors...
35 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Manu Vatuvei showed amazing strength to get across the line in the corner. Vatuvei held off four players to get the ball down with one hand. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Melbourne Storm 16-12
40 min: Melbourne looked to be running away with this match but the Warriors have come back strongly in searing heat to give Melbourne a real run for their money. They key to this match will be second half possession and the ability of the Warriors to withstand the heat and finish the game as they have shown they have the points in them to topple the premiers.
41 min: We are underway in the second half.
49 min: Warriors looking good in the early stages of the second half.
51 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Melbourne extend their lead after Vatuvei made a meal of another bomb and Melbourne made him pay the ultimate price. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 22-12
54 min: The Warriors continue to self destruct as they kick the ball dead on the full from the kickoff.
57 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm A dubious penalty against the Warriors has given the Storm a gift two points to extend their lead to two converted tries. Melbourne Storm 24-12
60 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm The Storm extend their lead beyond two converted tries as the Warriors continue to self destruct with silly errors and penalties. Melbourne Storm 26-12
66 min: The Warriors continue to make far too many errors and with under fifteen minutes remaining, this game looks to be a bridge too far for the Warriors.
71 min: TRY Melbourne Storm The Storm put their exclamation mark on the match with a long range try to Sam Tagataese off an Israel Folau pass that saw bug Sam put the afterburners on andscored under the posts. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful. Melbourne Storm 32-12
77 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warriors give the scoreline some respectability with a great try to barnstorming winger Manu Vatuvei. Too little too late for the Warriors. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Melbourne Storm 32-18
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Billy Slater 2 Points: Manu Vatuvei 1 Point: Cameron Smith