Melbourne have ground out an important 15-10 win over Souths at Bluetongue Stadium. With 8 players backing up from Origin the Storm have managed to beat a much improved Souths.
Souths had a great completion rate tonight but what the stat doesn't tell you is that many of those sets finished with a pop rather than a bang. Their attacking kicking game was very poor and the coach and supporters must be thinking if only as this game had the potential for upset of the season.
The first half was dominated possession and territory wise by the Bunnies but the only score was a soft try to Will Chambers for Melbourne in the 14th minute. Merrit could not defuse a bomb and before the defence could regroup Melbourne found a gaping hole out wide.
Souths actually tried a bit of ball movement tonight and for the most part they did well but the times when it looked like they might score the pass either went to ground or was mistimed thus snuffing out the opportunity. Melbourne hung on well but they were ably assisted by the impotent Souths set finishing.
One of the many poor Souths kicks preceded a Melbourne Storm raid in the 63rd minute, a try scored when Vagana dropped a Cronk cross kick and Jeremy Smith accepted the free ball and barged over to give the Storm a 12-0 lead.
Ten minutes later Sutton got a good high bomb into play and Slater could not handle it and an injured Vagana got a hand on the ball to force the try to make it 12-6. Unfortunately Luke Stuart dropped the ball from the kickoff and Melbourne calmly potted a field goal to put the game beyond doubt.
Souths exhibited their rediscovered spirit and Hegarty regained a short kickoff and the boys from Redfern moved the ball wide for Vagana to nab a double for the night.
Tonight Souths showed grit in defence with several successful goalline defences and intent if not execution in attack. Melbourne must be commended for their ability to win what should have been the unwinnable. The main losers tonight are the footy tab punters expecting an easy Melbourne win.
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary A big test for both teams tonight, Souths needing to improve dramatically from last Monday's woeful performance against Canberra while Melbourne have 8 players backing up from Wednesday's bruising Origin encounter.
For Souths Beau Champion is out through injury and Talanoa moves into the centres with John Tamanika promoted onto the wing. Eddie Pettybourne drops off the extended bench and played strongly in under 20's.
For Melbourne Greg Inglis is out through injury and Matt Geyer is starting at 5/8 in his 250th game. Lima and Crocker drop back to the bench with Kaufusi and Jeremy Smith promoted to the starting lineup. Manu and Blair come in to the squad on the bench and Aiden Tolman drops off the bench having played in under 20's.
We're off... late change Luke Stuart starts and Manuokafoa is on the bench
4 min: Melbourne make a strong raid and Souths find some good goalline defence 5 min: A great chip behind the winger by Cronk but Turner drops it over the line... try bombed
6 min: For the second time Souths dribble their kick along the ground to neutralise Slater. Slater drops the ball this time and Souths get a set in Melbourne's half
9 min: A decent set by Souths with Asotasi going very close. In the ensuing plays Widders pases it to the touch judge and a great chance goes begging
14 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Merritt fails to defuse a high Cameron Smith bomb and Melbourne get another set from close range. Chambers goes over out wide with the Souths defence unable to regroup. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 4-0
17 min: A good pass by Widders almost puts Faalogo in, the bunnies looking like a football team tonight
23 min: Ball mainly with Souths of late and they are showing some enterprise. Sutton tries an inside ball to Merritt but it is a difficult one that goes to ground
26 min: Melbourne looking a little dusty another mistake with Slater passing it forward to Crocker
31 min: Quinn takes Vagana out and Souths get a penalty, now 4-1 the count to Souths
32 min: Souths with a lot of possession at the right end but their sets are ending without purpose, the kicking game need to improve
34 min: Going upstairs for a possible Souths try...
34 min: No try but a dropout to come from Melbourne
35 min: Another poor ending to a Souths set, plenty of chances but nothing to show as yet
38 min: Folau is away but the ref calls the pass forward... lucky break for Souths it looked ok
Half Time: Souths have had a significant possession and territory advantage but they have not troubled the scorer, Melbourne leading 4-0 at the break. The bunnies have certainly lifted their game tonight and are showing grit in defence and are actually attempting to use the ball straying from their one out game plan that has dominated their style this season. Unfortunately they have not kicked well to finish the sets and too many passes are not finding the mark. Souths have the advantage in all the stats and Melbourne have a poor completion rate so it will be interesting to see how the Storm go should the possession turn in the second half. Melbourne not surprisingly look a little flat after Origin so Souths have a big chance to pull off the upset of the season here.
Second half underway
44 min: Cronk kicks into the in-goal and Vagana shoves his own teammate out of the way and then does not play at the ball and Will Chambers comes within a whisker of scoring, dumb dumb play by Vagana.
46 min: Cronk bombs and Hegarty drops it to Slater. Folau looks certain to score but is crunched by Isaac Luke. On the next play the ball goes wide to Chambers and he drops the ball a foot from the line.
50 min: Both teams completing at the moment with Souths defending well against the superior Melbourne kicking game
52 min: Cameron Smith puts in a poor kick over the dead ball line
57 min: Ndaira and Asotasi back on Souths much better with those two on the field. The longer the game goes the more lethargic the Storm are looking. Melbourne get a penalty within kicking range and Smith will try and get it to 6-0.
58 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm Melbourne Storm 6-0
61 min: Souths yet again bomb a great chance to mount pressure with a woeful last tackle kick
63 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Finally the Storm make Souths pay for their inept finishing by completing a good set with Cronk's kick on the last dropped by Vagana and Jeremy Smith barges over close to the posts. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 12-0
66 min: Toothless kick number 12? by Souths sees the ball go into touch and a scrum will form
72 min: Going to the video ref for a possible Souths try...
73 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Sutton puts up a huge bomb and Slater can't handle it, Vagana comes through and forces the try, well done Souths. Conversion attempt by Issac Luke successful. Melbourne Storm 12-6
75 min: FIELD GOAL Melbourne Storm, Souths lose the ball from the kickoff and Melbourne put the game beyond doubt with a Cronk field goal Melbourne Storm 13-6
78 min: Unwarranted penalty to the Storm and they are going for goal
78 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm Melbourne Storm 15-6
Full time: Melbourne 15 defeat Souths 10