THE Melbourne Storm were pushed all the way but their class eventually shone through in a 26-12 victory over a gallant Wests Tigers side in front of 18866 fans at AAMI Park.
The Storm didn’t hit the front until the 66th minute when halfback Cooper Cronk started and finished a movement down the right side with hooker Cameron Smith having a hand in the original play before Chambers burst down the sideline to find Cronk back in support.
The Storm started the match as red-hot favourites but in a weekend of so-called upsets it was the Tigers who started the match the better with a specific game plan which included quick play-the-balls and plenty of offloads. Hooker Robbie Farah kicked to the corners to negate Billy Slater’s impact and the Tigers defence which has been suspect already in 2013 was up to the task throughout the opening 40 minutes.
The opening half was a stop-start affair punctuated by penalties which ensured Melbourne couldn’t get into their methodical game plan. The Tigers opened the scoring after 16 minutes on the back of a dubious refereeing decision after it appeared Bodene Thompson took Storm five-eighth Gareth Widdop out after a kick which may be scrutinised by the match review committee. Billy Slater won the race to the ball and forced a dropout but was ruled offside and the visitors advanced the ball downfield. Early in the tackle count Farah was at it again out of dummy half and his perfectly weighted grubber into the in-goal was grounded by winger James Tedesco to give his side an unlikely 4-0 lead.
The Tigers defence continued to muscle up throughout the remainder of the half as the Storm threw everything they had at them but appeared incapable of finding a way through. Braith Anasta added a penalty goal in the 33rd minute before the amount of tackling the Tigers had done eventually took its toll in the shadows of halftime. Storm hooker Cameron Smith turned prop Siosaia Vave back on the inside where he muscled his way into the in-goal. Smith added the extras to send both sides to the break at 6-all.
The Tigers extended their lead back out to a converted try in the 50th minute although luck played a part in Benji Marshall’s try. Robbie Farah hooked a cross-field kick back towards Mahe Fonua who spilt the ball before Ben Murdoch-Masila threw a perfect around-the-corner pass to his five-eighth.
Fonua redeemed himself in the 63rd minute when he finished off a typical Melbourne Storm try. Cronk, Smith and Slater combined with successive second-man plays before the fullback found his winger who scored out wide. Smith added the extras from out wide and from there it was all one-way traffic.
Further tries to Cronk and Waqa ensured the Storm started the season with a 5-0 win-loss record and sets up a mouthwatering clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium next Saturday night.
The Tigers will have to regroup and prepare to face the Dragons at the SCG next Sunday.