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The Melbourne Storm have easily won what many believed would be a tight tussle against the Warriors, by 30-12 at Olympic Park on Sunday.
It was a match the the Storm never let the Warriors get into, through a strong defensive line that didn't look like breaking, even when the Warriors had three or four sets in a row on the Storm's line.
Melbourne started the game on fire, through tries to Billy Slater and Israel Folau within the first ten minutes. Slaters' try came on the back of a nice break down the sideline by Matt Geyer, who then passed inside for Slater to score. Four minutes later Folau found himself on the end of a slick back line movement as the ball went from Cameron Smith, out to Greg Inglis, back to Cooper Cronk, and finally into Folau's hands where he was presented with the tryline wide open.
The Storm were in again nine minutes later after Ryan Hoffman dived over the line to score. The play had started deep in Melbourne's territory when Cameron Smith capitalised on a handling error by the Warriors, opening them up down the middle, and the linking up with Cronk who was tackled desperately 20-out. The ball was sent through hands on the next play, until Hoffman found himself with possession, and crashed over to score. Cameron Smith had an unhappy half with the boot, only managing one from three attempts.
The rest of the half was much a much closer affair, with the Warriors enjoying their fair share of possession, but unable to come up with anything to show for it. The Storm went into half time leading 14-0
The Warriors came out for the second half determined to tighten up their defense and stop the Storm from scoring, and for the first ten minutes they were successful. Poor handling, however, killed any chances the Warriors had of putting points on the board. The Storm made the Warriors pay for their poor handling when Folau flew high and stole the ball out of Manu Vatuvei's hands to score in the 50th minute. Cameron Smith converted, and the Storm were leading 20-nil with thirty minutes remaining. If the Warriors were to be any chance, they needed to score the next try.
Luckily for Ivan Cleary's men, they did, with the Warriors first points of the afternoon coming through a Vatuvei try in the 60th minute of the game. A long break down the middle of the field from Wade McKinnon provided the platform for the try, with the Warriors getting a much needed penalty down on the Storms twenty. Three plays later, and the Warriors were over.
Melbourne snuffed out any chance the Warriors thought they may have had, with Matt King scoring in the 65th minute. With Greg Inglis off the field receiving attention for a possible ankle injury, Geyer, playing at 5/8, threw a lovely cut-out pass for King to touch down in the corner.
The icing on the cake came in the 71st minute, when a fresh on the field Antonio Kaufusi received the ball on his own 40 metre line, and made a twenty metre dash down field, linking up with King, who was then wrapped up on the Warriors 30. Thanks to a quick play the ball, Geyer was able to take advantage of the slow and disjointed defensive line. Geyer placed a neat little grubber through for a racing Slater to swoop on and slide in under the posts for his second of the afternoon. Cameron Smith added the extras and the Storm were leading 30-6
Sam Rapira grabbed a consolation try for the Warriors in the final minutes, but it certainly was an impressive solo effort. With seemingly nothing on, Rapira broke the tackles of Dallas Johnson, Michael Crocker, Slater and Folau in a 20-metre run to the line.
It was an awesome display from last years runner's up, and has no doubt shown that the Storm are the benchmark once again this year.
Round 3 - Full Time :: April 1st, 2007 Kick off: 12:00 PM Venue: Olympic Park Referee: Shayne Hayne
Melbourne Storm 30 Tries: Billy Slater (2), Israel Folau (2), Ryan Hoffman, Matt King Goals: Cameron Smith (3/6) New Zealand Warriors 12 Tries: Manu Vatuvei, Sam Rapira Goals: Tony Martin (2/2)
Welcome to Olympic Park for what should be an absolute ripper of a match between the Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors. Both teams are as per programme, and will soon be taking the field.
0 min: And we're underway! Warriors to get first use of the football.
4 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Simple play from the Storm. Flat passing from Cronk and King sends Geyer down the touchline, who then passes on the inside for Slater to score first points of the afternoon. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-0
6 min: Warriors send the restart flying over the dead in-goal line, giving the Storm the penalty on halfway. Storm on attack 20 out
7 min: TRY Melbourne Storm An even simpler try than the first one! From dummy half, the ball was sent to Inglis, who then passed back to Cronk. Cronk sent a long ball out to Folau, who had the line wide open in front of him. Worrying signs defensively for the Warriors early. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 10-0
12 min: PENALTY Warriors Working their way out off their own line, the Warriors get a relieving penalty for a late tackle by King on Crockett. Warriors on halfway.
15 min: TRY Melbourne Storm The unhappy afternoon continues for New Zealand. Following an error in the Storms territory, Cameron Smith makes the Warriors pay, opening them up down the middle, and linking up with Cronk, who is tackled desperately by the defense. On the following play, the ball is sent out to Hoffman who simply runs into the gap and dives over for the points. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 14-0
18 min: INTERCHANGE: Storm: Kaufusi off, Cross on Warriors: Gatis off, Fien on Wiki off, Tuimavave on
20 min: Logan Swann sends a wayward pass out to the touch judge. Storm on attack on halfway
21 min: And a let off for the Warriors as a Billy Slater pass intended for Geyer finds the same touch judge as before.
22 min: INTERCHANGE: STORM: Jeremy Smith off, Crocker on
23 min: POSSESSION: Storm 59% Warriors 41%
25 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Storm Try...
25 min: NO TRY - Penalty Warriors Dallas Johnson being in front of the kicker has denied Billy Slater a try under the posts. Warriors on attack 40 out from the Storm line
27 min: In a reshuffled Warriors line that sees Michael Witt on the bench, Lance Hohaia, playing in the halves, places a neat little grubber into the in goal, forcing Slater to play it dead, earning the Warriors the repeat set.
28 min: INTERCHANGE: Warriors: Witt off, Lauaki on Luck off, Rapira on
33 min: Outstanding defense from the Storm, who have just survived 3 consecutive sets in defense on their own line, and have not leaked a single point.
34 min: The Storm withstand even more pressure on their line, yet their defense is still holding strong.
36 min: ERRORS: Storm: 5 Warriors: 5
40 min: And it's half time, with the Storm putting on an awesome display in both defense and attack. Storm 14-0
It's been a heated match so far, with the Warriors no-doubt getting frustrated at not being able to penetrate the Storms defensive line, and are letting a bit of niggle get into the game.
40 min: And the Warriors get the second half underway!
44 min: Warriors look to be muscling up in defense, with 3 or 4 of them picking up Anthony Quinn and carrying him over the sideline.
47 min: Simon Mannering drops a no-pressure ball, giving possession to the Storm on the Warriors 20
48 min: VIDEO REF - Shayne Hayne going up to video ref Phil Cooley to check a number of things, including onside, in air contest for the ball, and grounding.
48 min: NO TRY - Goal line dropout. Warriors ruled to have grounded the ball in-goal. Storm get the repeat set.
50 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Storm Try...Melbourne Storm 14-0
50 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Israel Folau grabs a double to bring his tally to 5 tries in just 3 first grade games. A cross field kick from Cronk looked to be caught in the air by Vatuvei, until Folau stole it out of his hands, and dove over to score. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 20-0
55 min: The Warriors have two sets on attack deep in the Storms half, yet still have nothing to show for it.
57 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors After almost an hour, the Warriors grab their first points of the afternoon through Manu Vatuvei. It all started with a long break downfield by Wade McKinnon, with the Warriors getting a penalty on the following play. With a full set of six inside the Storms 20, it was only a matter of time until the Warriors crossed the line. Conversion attempt by Tony Martin successful. Melbourne Storm 20-6
63 min: The Warriors keep inviting the Storm to score, with back to back errors giving the Storm possession in excellent field position
65 min: TRY Melbourne Storm A lovely cut-out pass from Matt Geyer on the last tackle sends Matt King touching down in the corner and, one would think, sealing the win for the Storm. Whilst waiting for the conversion, we see Greg Inglis off the field getting his left ankle attended to. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 24-6
67 min: Melbourne commit the cardinal sin, with Cooper Cronk unable to handle the kick off, and taking it over the dead ball line, giving possession straight back to the Warriors via a goal line dropout
71 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Billy Slater finally gets the second try he was denied earlier in the game. Spreading the ball wide in their own half, Antonio Kaufusi makes a long run, before passing to King who is then tackled 30 out. Taking advantage of the quick play the ball, and the slow defensive line for the Warriors, Matt Geyer runs to the line, before grubbering through for Slater to swoop on the ball and slide over under the sticks. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 30-6
77 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors In a show of pure strength and determination, Sam Rapira breaks attempted tackles from Johnson, Crocker, Folau, and Slater in a 20 metre run to the line, and grabs his first try for the year. Conversion attempt by Tony Martin successful. Melbourne Storm 30-12
80 min: And it's full time here. In what many thought would be the tightest match of the round, Melbourne have run out convincing winners 30-12
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Billy Slater (Storm) 2 Points: Israel Folau (Storm) 1 Point: Matt Geyer (Storm)