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New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm
Famous Matches

Qualifying Final 2008

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The Warriors threw the race for the premiership wide open at Olympic Park with an exhilarating last-ditch victory over defending premiers Melbourne.

The New Zealand outfit created history by becoming the first eighth-placed team to beat the minor premiers under the McIntyre Finals System introduced in 1999.
Their 18-15 win was sealed two minutes from fulltime when five-eighth Michael Witt completed a movement that covered 75 metres and featured superb lead-up work by centre Jerome Ropati and winger Manu Vatuvei. Witt caused palpitations for his coach Ivan Cleary by standing statuesque in the Storm in-goal before eventually touching down a fraction of a second before Storm hooker Cameron Smith arrived on the scene. “I thought it must have been pulled up,” Cleary said. “I won’t encourage him to do that again.”

The lead changed four times during a dramatic and at times controversial finals encounter in which questions were again raised about the Storm’s contentious tackling techniques.

Warriors players admitted that they went into the game with a pre-conceived plan to complain to match officials every time they believed they had been the victim of a grapple tackle or crusher hold.

“We weren’t going to take any crap,” said Storm hooker Ian Henderson. “We said as soon as there was a grapple tackle we weren’t going to take a backward step.”
Melbourne responded by branding the Warriors “whingers” but the defiant attitude of the visitors undoubtedly contributed to their winning performance.

The Storm were hampered by injuries to prop Danny Lima (cork) and second-rower Ryan Hoffman (ankle) which robbed them of some strength in centre-field but after fighting back from a 14-8 deficit to lead 15-14 when five-eighth Greg Inglis landed the first field goal of his NRL career, 12 minutes from fulltime, the home side looked like hanging on for victory.

Honours were shared in the first half, Melbourne scoring the first try through winger Anthony Quinn after fullback Billy Slater drifted across-field and drew the defence before sending Quinn away. The Warriors’ response came late in the half when centre Jerome Ropati beat Israel Folau to the line after a scrum win and the teams went to the break locked together at 8-all.

The Warriors hit the front five minutes after halftime when Vatuvei scored from a grubber kick by interchange Grant Rovelli. Then it was Folau’s turn, the Storm’s powerhouse bursting through the attempted tackles of Michael Luck and Ropati before carrying Vatuvei over the line. Smith failed with the angled conversion attempt but landed a penalty goal from 30 metres out soon after to level at 14-all.
Then Inglis stepped up to give his team hope at 15-14 before the Warriors’ devastating late charge down the western touchline.

The shock loss forced the abandonment of a post-match presentation of the Giltinan Shield to Melbourne for winning the minor premiership but a planned farewell from Olympic Park for veteran Matt Geyer and departing team-mates Michael Crocker, Jeremy Smith, Israel Folau and Antonio Kaufusi went ahead solemnly.

Storm players formed a huddle at fulltime, Smith addressing the players for several minutes. “I just said that everyone that took part in the game today had to go home and have a look in the mirror, and see that they thought about their performance, whether it was up to our standard, and whether they think it’s good enough to win this competition,” he said. “I doubt there would be many blokes saying it would.”

The late try to Witt brought disappointment to the Canberra Raiders, whose season ended as a result, while Melbourne were pitched into a sudden-death confrontation with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

Round 20, 2008

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The game’s longest individual winning streak came to an end at Mt Smart Stadium when Michael Crocker and his Melbourne team-mates fell 8-6 to the Warriors on a day of wild Auckland weather.

It was the first time in 34 games since joining the Storm in 2006 that Crocker had played on a losing side at club level. And ironically it was Crocker who conceded the penalty that led to the winning goal by Warriors’ fullback Lance Hohaia.
Rain had drenched Auckland for two days before the game making conditions awkward for both teams but it was the home side who handled them better and thoroughly deserved their win.

“They were too good for us today,” offered Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy. “They out-enthused us, out-worked us, out-everythinged us.”

The Warriors were first to score through a try to 109kg centre Sonny Fai in the 10th minute and Melbourne’s response did not come until 46 minutes later when interchange Sika Manu crashed through two defenders to score and Cameron Smith converted for 6-all.

The key moment came eight minutes from fulltime when referee Jared Maxwell pinged Crocker for an incorrect play-the-ball.

Round 7, 2009

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A field goal attempt by fullback Lance Hohaia in the final minute of extra-time of a dramatic clash between the Warriors and Storm at Olympic Park was disallowed by video referee Tim Mander, even though the kick sailed between the uprights.
Hohaia was denied the winning kick after Mander ruled that halfback Stacey Jones had fumbled the ball before passing to Hohaia. The decision meant that the game finished in a 14-all stalemate and for the second time in seven months the Warriors had thwarted the Storm’s victory plans at Olympic Park. In 2008, the Warriors became the first eighth-placed team to beat the minor premiers when they downed Melbourne 18-15 in a qualifying final.

Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was critical of the lead-up to the field goal attempt, claiming that Storm players were slow to clear the ruck at the play-the-ball. “In golden point there are just no decisions made,” he said, claiming that referees were reluctant to intervene in the overtime period.

Former Parramatta five-eighth Brett Finch made a promising debut for the Storm and was involved heavily in two of his team’s three tries.

There was major concern for Melbourne winger Anthony Quinn who suffered severe concussion when he was accidentally kneed in the head by Warriors centre Simon Mannering soon after halftime. The game was held up for almost 10 minutes while he received treatment.

Round 13, 2007

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Coach Craig Bellamy labelled his team’s 4-2 defeat of the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium as the finest win in his five years in charge of the Melbourne Storm.
The Storm did it without nine regular players, including six State of Origin reps and three other stars who were sidelined with injury.

Melbourne trailed 2-0 from the time centre Tony Martin landed a penalty goal for the Warriors in the ninth minute until lock Jeremy Smith reached out for the only try of the game, nine minutes from fulltime.

In between, both sides defended fiercely in the cold and wet conditions.
“It was real gutsy,” Bellamy said. “I can’t give them a big enough wrap for the resilience and courage they showed. It’s my fifth year in Melbourne and this is as good a win as I’ve had, especially under the circumstances. I’ve put it up there as one of the best wins I’ve had.”

Few Melbourne players sported a more satisfied grin than second-rower Clint Newton, who was appearing in his first game for the Storm following his mid-week transfer from Newcastle. A week earlier he played in the Knights’ 71-6 annihilation at the hands of Brisbane.

Also making a rare appearance for the Storm was 1999 grand final winner Matt Rua, who had not played in the NRL since 2002.

Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was convinced the Storm made a major contribution to the lowest-scoring premiership game in 14 years by their focus on slowing the play-the-ball. “They focused on their biggest strength, which is probably pushing the limit in terms of the play-the-ball wrestle, and they certainly did that tonight,” he said.
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