The Melbourne Storm have taken top spot on the NRL ladder after a hard fought 12-6 victory over the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
The top spot on the NRL ladder was up for grabs for the Melbourne Storm although a fired-up New Zealand Warriors side who were looking to back up their efforts of last week's victory against the Broncos. For the first time in many weeks, Craig Bellamy was able to field a full-strength side with all the Storm's state of origin representatives returning to the side as well as Dale Finucaine returning from injury.
The Storm looked ominous for the Warriors early on and the Storm were able to cross the line after just four minutes when a deft short ball from Jahrome Hughes put Will Chambers through a massive gap although Chambers nearly blew the try by electing not to use an open Vunivalu and going himself which ended up paying off, Cameron Smith couldn't convert the try.
Just three minutes later the Warriors were able to hit back when Shaun Johnson showed his class with a pinpoint kick finding David Fusitua who out flew Josh Addo-Carr and the Fus got a two handed tap back out to Gerard Beale who scored the Warriors opener. A super conversion from the sideline looking into the sun from Shaun Johnson put the Warriors out to a 6-4 lead.
The game went into a stalemate for the next half hour with both sides trying to throw jabs at the other but nothing was really coming off for either side and as the game looked headed to a 6-4 some MelbourneStorm magic saw them bounce back to the lead. A beautiful kick from Jahrome Hughes found a flying Suliasi Vunivalu who was able to leap high and take the catch cleanly before using his momentum to get over the line and score the try. The Storm took an 8-6 lead to the break after Cameron Smith again couldn't convert from out wide.
The second half started much like the way the first half was played with plenty of end to end action with no real pressure on either side early on. The first real chance came for the Warriors when Solomone Kata got his way to the line and over it with some good strength but he was denied by both on-field referee Ben Cummins and in the bunker by Jared Maxwell who ruled that Kata's arm hit the ground before making a second effort to the line.
The Storm added a penalty goal just shy of the hour mark after Shaun Johnson unsuccessfully tried to replicate an earlier short dropout attempt and it went out on the full giving the Storm the easy two points from right in front of the uprights. The Storm added another penalty goal in the dying minutes to push the lead out to 12-6. Opportunities cropped up in the last two minutes for the Warriors but they couldn't take it with an unnecessary offload finding its way back into the hands of the Melbourne Storm.
Next weekend the Warriors have a trip up to the Gold Coast when they take on the Titans next Sunday afternoon, whilst the Melbourne Storm are back at AAMI Park when they host the Canberra Raiders on Saturday night.