Nigel Wall,, NRL.com
The Storm defeated the Wests Tigers 26-6 at Leichhardt Oval in Round 26 last season – avenging a 10-6 home defeat suffered in Round 14.
Against a Tigers side missing Robbie Farah, Melbourne drew first blood in the 16th minute after going the length of the field inside a set of six tackles; the scoring play saw centre Dane Nielsen split open the defence on the left edge before delivering a simple inside pass to Sika Manu who dotted down for a 4-nil lead.
That deficit became 10 points when Storm back-rower Kevin Proctor barged over in the 25th minute.
Some magic from Benji Marshall saw the Wests Tigers return fire two minutes before halftime – Marshall ran to the line 30 metres from the Storm try line, then delivered a flat no-look pass to Junior Moors who broke free from an attempted tackle and offloaded to Marshall on the trail, the No.7 crossing adjacent to the right goalpost for a 10-6 scoreline at oranges.
The defining moment of the match occurred in the 57th minute when Cooper Cronk booted a mini-bomb for fullback Billy Slater; the fullback leapt high to bat the ball back into the arms of prop Bryan Norrie who barged over from 10 metres out.
That made it 16-6 before Ryan Hoffman extended their lead when he charged over on the left edge in the 65th minute. Sisa Waqa crossed in the right corner with five minutes remaining for the fulltime scoreline.
Melbourne’s attack carried the day: despite being outpointed by the Tigers in key stats categories including possession (66 per cent completions to the Tigers’ 72 per cent), missed tackles (41 to 31) and total runs (160 to 162) the Storm still managed to punch out seven line-breaks to the Tigers’ three.
They also gained a huge territorial advantage off the boot of Cooper Cronk (506 metres), winning the overall kicking battle 704 metres to 448 metres.