The Melbourne Storm have solidified their Top 4 position on the ladder with a gritty 22-16 come from behind victory over a resilient Rabbitohs side in slippery conditions at ANZ Stadium tonight.
Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen was superb for the visitors, scoring a try and having a hand in two more crucial tries in an outstanding performance from the dynamic fullback who managed to also run for over 200 metres from 21 hit ups.
The Melbourne victory ended the Bunnies five match winning streak, with Wayne Bennett's men dominating large periods of the first half but it is fair to say that the wet weather in the second half didn't help the home side, with the Bunnies dropping far too much ball to allow the Storm too many opportunities to take the game.
Souths came out with a lot of energy early and were rewarded, when Storm skipper Cameron Smith was penalised for a high tackle inside the Rabbitohs attacking zone. The Rabbitohs elected to take the sensible option and Adam Reynolds took the penalty goal on offer to get his side on the scoreboard to lead 2-0.
The Rabbitohs continued to dominate possession throughout the early parts of the game and it resulted in the first try, when Cody Walker rolled the ball in goal on the last. Rookie Storm winger Isaac Lumelume willed the ball over the line, however Bunnies centre Campbell Graham reached around his legs to ground the ball to score. Reynolds then converted and the home side led 8-0.
The Storm needed to respond and they did so in style, when Josh Addo-Carr managed to get on the outside of Bunnies centre Steven Marsters to race away down the sideline. The NSW winger then looked inside to find a familiar sight in a flying Ryan Papenhuyzen who scored a superb try. Cameron Smith converted from out wide and the home side's lead was narrowed to 8-6 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Souths then found themselves on the attack close to the line and Reynolds then managed to deliver some early ball to his elusive halves partner in Walker. Walker then dug deep into the line and sliced through, beating four Storm defenders to score a superb solo try. Reynolds converted and Souths were looking great, leading 14-6 as halftime approached.
South Sydney then made a crucial error inside their own half, with Souths interchange player Liam Knight knocking on a loose offload. Of course as Melbourne do, they made their opposition pay for the error, with Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen combining on the left edge to put Justin Olam over in the corner to score just as the halftime siren was about to wail. Smith's conversion grazed the upright from out wide, but the Storm had swung the momentum, despite Souths leading 14-10 at the break.
Souths got on the board first again in the second half however, after Storm prop Christian Welsch was penalised for a crusher tackle on Liam Knight. Souths elected to again take the shot at goal and Reynolds converted extending his side's lead to 16-10.
Melbourne then began to build pressure and they locked up the game at 16 all, when Cameron Smith ducked out of dummy half close to the line and picked up a flying Tino Fa'asuamaleaui who drove over like a Mack truck to score a try next to the uprights.
The Storm continued to camp themselves on the Rabbitohs line, when they again got on a roll and confidently ran the ball on the last tackle. Smith found the dangerous Papenhuyzen with a sharp run on a tight an angle. The Storm fullback then linked Cameron Munster in support, who crashed over for a crucial try with what proved to be the match winning play with 10 minutes remaining.
The win sends the Storm four points clear in second spot with third placed Parramatta still to play the Warriors on Sunday. Melbourne now return to their home away from home on the Sunshine Coast, where they face the Cowboys next Sunday.
The loss for Souths sees them slip to seventh on the ladder and they now visit Bankwest Stadium next Thursday night, where they kickoff Round 18 against the Wests Tigers.