The New Zealand Warriors have made history tonight in defeating the Melbourne Storm 18-15 at Olympic Park. Michael Witt scored a try with two minutes remaining in the game to stun the Minor Premiers in a huge upset in front of 15,193 vocal fans.
With the Storm looking set for victory thanks to a Greg Inglis field goal Jerome Ropati received the ball on his 30m line in the 78th minute and got a beautiful offload away to giant winger Manu Vatuvei. Vatuvei stepped inside Melbourne winger Steve Turner and burnt down field before finding half Michael Witt to score a remarkable try.
The Warriors have become the first eighth-placed team to avoid elimination in the first week of the finals under the current McIntyre system. Due to their win the six-placed Canberra Raiders who were defeated by the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday have been eliminated.
The away team opened the scoring through a Michael Witt penalty goal but it was the Storm who scored the first try of the match as Anthony Quinn finished off a clinical second-man play. A Cameron Smith penalty goal gave Melbourne a six point buffer and they looked set to carry that into halftime until Jerome Ropati burst through two defenders to score a crucial try for the Warriors.
With halftime scores locked at eight all both teams came out of the sheds with plenty of intensity and it was the Warriors who were rewarded when they chanced their hands on the line as Vatuvei collected a Rovelli grubber to crash over in the corner. Melbourne lifted the tempo of the game as they worked for a week off and they got a step closer when Israel Folau surged through the Warriors defence close to the line to make it a two point ball game.
Cameron Smith soon levelled the scores with his second penalty goal and when Inglis struck a 40m field goal with ten minutes remaining the Storm looked to have gotten out of jail. It was not to be however as the Warriors stunned the home crowd with their brilliant 78th minute try to Michael Witt.
Following Melbourne's shock loss they will face the Brisbane Broncos in Brisbane next week whilst the Warriors have earnt a home final where they will face the Sydney Roosters. Manly and Cronulla are rewarded with a week off following their wins whilst Canberra and St George Illawarra have been eliminated.
Match Details New Zealand Warriors 18 def Melbourne Storm 15 Finals - Week 1 - Sunday September 14th, 2008 4:05pm Venue: Olympic Park Referee: Jason Robinson Touch Judges: Bernard Sutton & Paul Holland Video Referee: Phil Cooley Half Time: 8 all Crowd: 15,193
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
In the fourth and final clash of the first week of the finals series the Warriors have to upset the Minor Premiers to progress in the competition.
The outcome today can greatly affect who plays who next week with the following scenarios;
Should Melbourne win - Melbourne, Manly week off. St George Illawara, New Zealand eliminated. Brisbane vs Canberra @ Suncorp Cronulla vs Sydney @ SFS.
Should New Zealand win - Manly, Cronulla week off. Canberra, St George Illawara eliminated. New Zealand vs Sydney @ NZ Brisbane vs Melbourne @ Suncorp
Only one team change for this finals clash with robust Melbourne prop Sika Manu ruled out with a hamstring complaint. Scott Anderson comes into the squad as his replacement. New Zealand will line-up as per program.
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Matt Geyer 4. Israel Folau 5. Anthony Quinn 6. Greg Inglis 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jeff Lima 9. Cam Smith (c) 10. Brett White 11. Michael Crocker 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Jeremy Smith 15. Adam Blair 17. Antonio Kaufusi 18. Scott Anderson
WARRIORS: 1. Lance Hohaia 2. Aidan Kirk 3. Brent Tate 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Michael Witt 7. Nathan Fien 8. Ruben Wiki 9. Ian Henderson 10. Steve Price (c) 11. Simon Mannering 12. Ben Matulino 13. Micheal Luck Interchange: 14. Grant Rovelli 15. Evarn Tuimavave 16. Sam Rapira 17. Logan Swann
Toyota Cup: New Zealand Warriors 47 defeated St George Illawara Dragons 20 After the Dragons scored the first three tries of the match the Warriors ran riot to post eight consecutive tries.
Should the Warriors lose this match the NRL career of Kiwi great Ruben Wiki and Logan Swann will come to an end.
Players coming onto the field now infront of a packed Olympic Park. The game will be played in overcast conditions but the field is in perfect condition.
1 min: KICKOFF: Referee Jason Robinson blows time on and Melbourne are unable to control the ball as it goes dead.
1 min: Goal-line Dropout Warriors. The Warriors receive a drop-out off the kick-off thanks to the Melbourne error.
4 min: PENALTY Storm. Micheal Witt gives away a penalty on the first tackle as he lingers too long in the ruck.
5 min: Goal-line Dropout Warriors. Cronk puts a kick up for Slater and the ball drops for Tate to ground it in-goal. Slater looked to have knocked-on in the contest for the ball.
8 min: The Warriors shift the ball right to Aiden Kirk on the wing and he steps inside to get over the line but is ruled to be held up.
10 min: Knock-on Warriors. Henderson passed from dummy-half and the ball unintentionally strikes Steve Price who was a dummy runner.
10 min: Knock-on Storm. Inglis drops the ball of the scrum win.
11 min: Goal-line Dropout Storm. The Warriors keep the ball alive on the last and Inglis bats a cross-field bomb dead.
12 min: PENALTY Warriors. Micheal Crocker penalised for a high tackle on Ian Henderson who has started the game very well.
15 min: PENALTY Storm. Just after I give him a wrap Ian Henderson loses the ball and is then penalised for throwing the ball at Geyer in sheer frustration.
16 min: TRY Melbourne Storm The Storm score the first try of the match through Anthony Quinn. Straight out of the play book the Storm run a second man play to Slater who fires a beautiful cut out pass to Quinn. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-2
19 min: PENALTY Warriors. Henderson earns a penalty from dummy-half as he catches the markers offside.
21 min: Inglis puts a chip over the top for himself but Brent Tate tracks back and cleans up the football.
22 min: Folau and Slater have a head clash but all looks to be ok now as Israel is on his feet.
23 min: INJURY: Ryan Hoffman hobbles off the ground with an ankle injury and is assisted straight into the tunnels. It doesn't look good for him.
25 min: Forward pass Warriors. Manu Vatuvei collects the ball on the sideline and crashed over in the corner but Michael Witt is ruled to have throw a forward pass.
27 min: PENALTY Storm. The Warriors are penalised on the last tackle as they try to slow down the play-the-ball.
30 min: Knock-on Warriors. Brent Tate knocks-on as New Zealand look to spread it right.
32 min: The Storm spread the ball off the scrum and Steve Turner streaks 60m down field before being dragged down by Vatuvei.
33 min: PENALTY Warriors. Adam Blair penalised for a second effort in the tackle.
34 min: Knock-on Warriors. Tuimavave loses the ball off the tap.
35 min: PENALTY Storm. The Warriors caught offside and the Storm with a good attacking opportunity now.
36 min: Inglis drops Kirk on his back with a beautiful driving tackle.
37 min: PENALTY Warriors. Dallas Johnson is penalised for a high tackle.
38 min: Warriors Scrum 10m out. Dumb play from Cameron Smith with nothing doing he slaps the ball out of the dummy halfs hands and is ruled to have knocked on.
39 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warrior shift the ball left off the scrum as they have done all game and Jerome Ropati gets on the outside of Folau and between Steve Turner to dive over in the corner. Witt kicks it from the sideline. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. 8 all
HALFTIME- Melbourne Storm 8 vs. New Zealand Warriors 8 Scores level at Olympic Park in a highly entertaining first half of finals football. The Warriors have matched the Storm in intensity as their defence has held strong. Anthony Quinn scored the first try of the match out wide as Melbourne looked set to enter the break with an 8-2 lead but Jerome Ropati levelled the scores just before halftime as the Warriors spread the ball wide off a scrum and Ropati found space through Folau and Turner to score.
41 min: KICKOFF: Jason Robinson blows time on and the Warriors bring the ball back with venom.
41 min: SCRUM Storm. Michael Witt finds touch with his kick and the Storm have a scrum on their 20m line.
42 min: POSSIBLE TRY Storm. Hohaia can't control the football and Slater is claiming a try.
43 min: PENALTY Warriors. Slater ruled to have tackled Hohaia without the ball and is penalised.
44 min: PENALTY Warriors. Kaufusi penalised for a high tackle as the Warriors take a tap 40m out from Melbourne's line.
45 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Sensational rugby league try from the Warriors. They keep the ball alive as it goes through several sets of hands before Rovelli stabs a grubber into the corner and Vatuvei beats Slater to the football and scores. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 14-8
47 min: Knock-on Warriors. Vatuvei goes from hero to villian as he loses the ball in the play-the-ball.
48 min: PENALTY Warriors. Melbourne are tackled into touch of the scrum win and then give away a penalty on the first tackle.
50 min: PENALTY Storm. Warriors give away a penalty on the last tackle for a push in the play-the-ball and the Storm right on the attack now.
51 min: POSSIBLE TRY Storm. Sensational goal-line defence from the Warriors holds the Storm out as Folau claims a try in a clear double movement.
52 min: PENALTY Warriors. Folau is accordingly penalised for the double movement and the Warriors hang on.
53 min: PENALTY Storm. Slater breaks through the line bringing the ball back and Michael Luck is penalised for holding him down too long in the tackle.
54 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Smith spins the ball right from dummy half to Folau and he steps inside Ropati and struggles with Vatuvei but manages to get the ball down. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 14-12
58 min: PENALTY Storm. The Warriors penalised on the fifth tackle again as the Storm are now making inroads through the ruck.
59 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm The Storm take the two points and the scores are level. 14 all
60 min: 40/20 Storm. Cooper Cronk takes the game by the scruff of the neck with a booming 40/20 and Raiders fans are breathing a little easier now.
62 min: Cronk fires a cross-field kick towards the right but a leaping Slater knocks-on.
63 min: PENALTY Warriors. Geyer blatantly strips the ball from a tackled Matulino.
64 min: POSSIBLE TRY Warriors. Vatuvei leaps over Turner and looks certain to score but somehow Melbourne may have held him up.
65 min: NO TRY Warriors. Vatuvei knocks-on as Cronk scrambles to dislodge the football.
65 min: Knock-on Storm. Scott Anderson loses the ball for Melboune in the play-the-ball and the Warriors are back on the attack.
66 min: Six-Again Warriors. The Storm touch the ball in contesting a kick and the Warriors have a repeat set.
67 min: PENALTY Storm. With the Warriors in possession Kirk is penalised for striking Geyer with his elbow. Not a lot in it and a huge call from Robinson.
70 min: PENALTY Warriors. The Storm give up a penalty on the last tackle and the Warriors are 20m out.
72 min: Knock-on Warriors. Witt knocks-on in the play-the-ball as all the Warriors are thinking field goal.
73 min: Knock-on Warriors. Brent Tate loses the ball and the Storm have a scrum on their 40m line.
76 min: Hohaia makes a 1 on 1 strip on Slater as he brings the ball back and the Warriors are 20m out. Amazing play.
77 min: With the Warriors in perfect position for a field goal Witt passes right for Tate who offloads to Tuimavave who is tackled.
78 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors UNBELIEVABLE TRY! Ropati receives the ball on his 30m line gets through the defence, offloads to Vatuvei who steps inside Turner, streaks down field brushing off defenders, who offloads to Witt who streaks away and stands in the in-goal before putting the ball down to score. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 18-15
80 min: The Storm get the ball back off the kick-off and keep throwing it back in the hope of scoring a try but they are wrapped up with the ball and it is game over.