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The Melbourne Storm claimed top spot on the NRL ladder with a thrilling 12-4 victory over the Wests Tigers in front of a 20,486 sell out Leichhardt Oval crowd in Round 15.
Melbourne welcomed the return of their origin stars in their visit to the spiritual home of the Tigers. And Melbourne's origin contingent didn't take long to make their presence felt with half back and Queensland utility Cooper Cronk booting 2 40/20s in the opening 5 minutes!
Superb on line defence as well as the huge home crowd-whose presence was felt throughout the game-did well to keep several early Melbourne raids from crossing the whitewash. Some poor last tackle options also helped in the home side's efforts.
In the fourteenth minute, the Tigers looked like being the first to score when outgoing enforcer Bryce Gibbs crossed the whitewash. His effort was however taken up to video referee Steve Clark, who's evidence showed that Gibbs had failed to ground it.
Minutes later, it was indeed Melbourne who put on the first points of the match. Cooper Cronk in blistering form created something from 35 out helping Widdop through a hole to get it onto Hinchcliffe to score the opening 4 pointer. Duffie took the conversion with captain Smith starting the game from the bench and Melbourne were off to a 6nil lead.
Cameron Smith entered the playing field in the twenty first minute, but his arrival proved unlucky for the Storm who conceded a penalty followed by an unforced error to give the Tigers the opportunity they needed to attempt to level the game. Benji Marshall welcomed the opportunity with some trademark Marshall creativity.
Such creativity was converted into points when Marshall threw a huge cut out pass from the centre of the field to Beau Ryan on the right edge to touch down a try in the corner. Marshall had made the task with the boot a little too difficult for himself failing to convert the Ryan try.
The whistle had a fair work out, but when Melbourne had one go their way, they put it to good use to further their lead. A penalty helped Melbourne into the Tigers 20 and from there Cronk laid on the second Melbourne try, with Slater running decoy and Kevin Proctor going in unchallenged. Smith took over the kicking duties and took the lead out to 12-4 in the 33rd minute.
A couple of penalties and some brilliant Melbourne defence dominated the road to half time. Tigers however remained very much in the game playing well with a spirited crowd right behind them despite the 8 point deficit.
The second half really wore out the whistles with an abundance of penalties and errors halting play. The mistakes however did not take away from some superb football being played at Leichardt. Also on display was some crafty attack and powerful defence. The only thing missing from the second half was points.
It was the Melbourne defence and refusal to give away anything in defence which won the game, defending their 8 point lead, from the moment they gained it to win the game 12 points to 4.
Wests Tigers 4 were defeated by Melbourne Storm 12
National Rugby League - Round 15 - Sunday June 19, 2011 3:00pm
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Referee: Ashley Klein and Adam Devcich
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Touch Judges: David Abood and Grant Atkins
Halftime: Wests Tigers 4 Melbourne Storm 12
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good Afternoon and welcome to a sunny Leichhardt Oval for Leagueunlimited's coverage of the Round 15 clash between the Wests Tigers and the Melbourne Storm. Leichhardt Oval has not been a happy hunting ground for the Storm winning only one of their 7 games played at the ground. Melbourne will however be welcoming the return of their origin stars and looking to seal ooutright top position on the ladder with a win here this afternoon. In the Toyota Cup curtainraiser, the Melbourne Thunderbolts were smashed by the Tigers under 20 side 60-20.
TEAM NEWS: The TIGERS have made a few superficial changes, with Robert Lui to start off the bench, Moltzen to start at halfback and Tim Simona starting in the centres. Lots of changes for the STORM. Neilson, Quinn and Bromwich are all out, with O'Neill, Waqa and Kostjasyn coming in to replace them. Smith and Norrie will start from the bench, with Hinchcliffe and Manu to start.
1 min: Referee Ashley Klein blows time on and Widdop's boot gets play under way.
2 min: Marshall kicks on the forth and it doesn't go according to plan, booted to deep giving Melbourn a 20 metre restart.
2 min: Cooper Cronk kicks on the third and nails a 40/20 to give Melbourne a wonderful attacking opportunity early.
3 min: O'Neill is tackled toward the sideline and tries to offload the ball back in field but Tigers hands claim it.
5 min: Cooper Cronk does it again, another 40/20, this time toward the opposite sideline.
6 min: Great defence for the Tigers and this sell out Leichhardt crowd is loving it.
7 min: PENALTY against Melbourne for a mid air tackle on McKinnon.
8 min: No chance for Cronk to kick another 40/20 in this set, making it over halfway, but they do get a repeat set with a ball played at.
9 min: And here's a scrim for Melbourne on the Tigers' 10 after Slater puts a little boot in that is knocked forward by a Tiger.
10 min: Tigers defence still working wonders to deny the Storm, who can't get a good last tackle play in at the line.
12 min: Tigers starting to find better field position and this crowd is getting right behind them.
13 min: PENALTY to the Tigers to give them a full set inside Melbourne's 20.
13 min: Injury concern for Gareth Ellis who is holding up play with a leg problem in the middle of play.
14 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Tigers TRY.
14 min: NO TRY! Gibbs who has not scored a try since the 2005 grand final, has bobbled it here.
14 min: PENALTY to Melbourne to help them out of their own half.
15 min: Wests Tigers defence working fantastically on their own line with Melbourne spending a lot of time inside the Tigers' 20, continually getting denied.
18 min: TRY
TRY to Melbourne! Cronk shapes to go outside then passes inside to Widdop who carves through the middle and gets it on to Hinchcliffe to score. Duffie adds the extras.
Melbourne Storm 6-0
20 min: Tigers fighting hard here and putting on an impressive performance. Melbourne backline doing well to respond to the Tigers' plays.
22 min: PENALTY to the Tigers and Cameron Smith has been subbed on for Melbourne.
23 min: Accidental offside against Melbourne gives the Tigers a scrum on the Melbourne 20 metre line.
26 min: TRY
TRY to the Tigers! Benji Marshall throws an enormous cut out pass to Beau Ryan to score in the corner. Marshall misses a tough conversion.
Melbourne Storm 6-4
29 min: Play appears to have slowed down a little, with the game going from end to end without too much trouble.
30 min: PENALTY to Melbourne for a mid air tackle from McKinnon on Duffie.
31 min: Another PENALTY to Melbourne to propel them into the Tigers' 20 for a full set.
33 min: TRY
TRY to Melbourne! Cronk finds Proctor who runs in for a pretty soft try with a poor effort from the defence, who were fooled by the movement of Slater. Cameron Smith takes over kicking duties and nails the conversion.
Melbourne Storm 12-4
34 min: Melbourne with some fire in their go forward now, with last try lifting their go forward.
34 min: PENALTY to the Tigers to piggy back them up field.
36 min: PENALTY to Melbourne with McKinnon again penalised for a mid air tackle, this one on Slater and Melbourne will appreciate the restart at halfway.
38 min: PENALTY to the Tigers for a chaser being interfered with, to give the Wests a full set 20 out from the Melbourne line.
39 min: Melbourne's defence doing wonderfully here to keep the Tigers out.
40 min: The half time siren put an end to this entertaining half with Melbourne ahead 12 points to 4.
41 min: Second half under way.
41 min: PENALTY to Melbourne in the first minute of the second 40, against Dwyer for interference in the play the ball.
42 min: Unforced error from Smith to turn the ball over early in the tackle count and give the Tigers a sniff of the Melbourne line.
44 min: Storm making big metres here and looking to dominate the Tigers wih their forward pack.
45 min: Tigers earn a repeat set by forcing a line drop out.
46 min: PENALTY to the Tigers, against Cronk for holding down in the play the ball.
49 min: Benji Marshall has made an unforced error turning the ball over at the halfway line.
51 min: A few errors both ways now with some attempts at creativity not paying off.
52 min: PENALTY to the Tigers against Smith for holding down in the play the ball.
55 min: Storm starting to get back into some good attacking position, but O'Neill turns it over on the last.
56 min: Storm back line doing a great job reading the Tigers' kicking games.
57 min: Woolnough turns the ball over at the halfway line. Melbourne's completion rate this half has not been great.
57 min: PENALTY to the Tigers, 35 out against Woolnough for a high tackle.
59 min: Another error from the Storm inviting the Tigers to attack.
60 min: 6 again for the Tigers who are right on the attack after the ball is touched by Melbourne hands.
61 min: PENALTY to the Tigers again for Melbourne holding down in the play the ball.
64 min: PENALTY to the Tigers, with Melbourne now on the wrong side of a pretty lopsided penalty count.
68 min: Tigers right on the attack and youngster Simona almost there but the Melbourn defence does wonderfully to push him out.
70 min: Tigers attacking strong, but the Melbourne defence is too good for it.
72 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Tigers TRY.
73 min: NO TRY! Great kick from Moltzen gets away from Slater and Fifita runs in to claim a try but can't put it down. The referee ruling asks Melbourne for a goal line drop out.
76 min: Fifita has a ball pushed out by Blair, Slater collects it and goes on a big run before he is stopped.
77 min: Smith kicks out of dummy half and precedes to earn a repeat set by forcing a line drop out.
78 min: A BIG hit and Storm lose it in the first tackle from the drop out.
80 min: The siren sounds after a scoreless second half where Melbourne held on to their first half lead to take the game 12 points to 4.