Melbourne Storm weathered a late Wests Tigers fight back today at Olympic Park, to win 26-20 and keep its finals aspirations alive.
Currently just outside the top eight, the Storm remains a glimmer of hope to make the cut with eight games remaining, three of which are at home.
In a much-improved performance to last week's game against the Northern Eagles, the Storm showed its true class to send a clear warning it remains a genuine threat.
Leading 10-4 at the half time break, the home team pushed out to a convincing 26-8 buffer late in the second term thanks to some poor decisions and ball handling errors from the Tigers.
Two late tries in the final three minutes made the score line more respectable for the visitors.
Despite the sluggish finish, Storm captain Stephen Kearney said he was delighted with his team's opening 30 minutes of the second half.
“We showed some desperation and proved that we are still a chance to go further,” Kearney said.
“We know we have the players to do it and I hope we can learn from the past few months and continue today's good form against the Sydney Roosters next weekend.”
Melbourne coach Mark Murray also praised his players, whom he believed had responded to the call to improve on recent efforts.
“We got the job done effectively,” said Murray.
“Defensively, it was very pleasing and with the score line sitting at 26-8 it was a good day's work.”
The opening 10 minutes saw a scrappy affair with both teams dropping plenty of ball and conceding several penalties.
The Storm were let off the hook early when flying winger Lipina Kaufusi made a dazzling break for the Tigers, however his off load went to ground and ended a certain try. But it was Storm's inspirational leader Stephen Kearney who set up the first points, making a powerful run before off-loading to the revitalised Robbie Kearns, who waltzed across the line.
With a strong wind in its favour, the Storm continued to surge forward and when Steven Bell crashed over the line, the Storm held a handy 10-0 advantage.
But the Tigers hit back within minutes. A high ball saw second rower Anthony Laffranchi rise above the pack and score with several Melbourne players left in his wake.
It only took eight minutes in to the second half for lock Willie Leyshon to make an impact and score with a twist and turn to plant the ball down in the left hand corner. Orford converted to put the Storm ahead 16-4.
However, the Tigers stuck to the cause and continually threatened to strike. Their persistence paid off when a cross kick from Tigers half back Ben Jeffries landed beautifully for centre Daniel Fitzhenry, who somehow managed to get an arm free and off-load to replacement Steve Crouch, who crossed untouched.
With the score at 16-8, Tigers big second rower Willie Manu crossed the line but scrambling Storm defence prevented him from forcing the ball down. The Tigers continued to push closer and closer to scoring again but Storm's defence remained relentless.
Again it was Leyshon who did the job for Melbourne, breaking the Tigers hearts when he squeezed through a soft tackle to post his second try and put the home side up 22-8.
Matt Geyer continued to propel the Storm further ahead when he burst on to a Scott Hill cutout ball for a touch down in the corner, with less than 10 minutes remaining.
However the Storm allowed two soft tries through in the shadows of half time to cast a cloud over an otherwise shining display.
Hooker Robert Mears and Jeffries scored the consolation tries for hapless Tigers.
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