Melbourne Storm and the Warriors have a rivalry that traditionally produces some tight matches.
They renew it again in this weekend's preliminary final. We take an in-depth look at the last two matches, who and what were the big plays, key issues and lessons learned.
2011 Round 16, Storm fight hard for 18-6 win
On the back of some hard fought wins over Wests Tigers and the Roosters in the lead up games, Melbourne Storm travelled to Auckland full of confidence, hoping to extend the home side’s losing streak.
After trailing 2-0 early, Melbourne Storm hit back through tries to Gareth Widdop and Billy Slater to lead 10-2 at half time, with their fluent attack working beautifully.
The Warriors finally got over the line in the 55th minute, but it took until the 79th minute for the Storm to secure the win 16-8, after Billy Slater scooped on a bomb fumbled by Lance Hohaia and crashed over to capitalise on the Warriors fullback’s second mistake of the night under the high ball.
Ryan Hinchcliffe was an attacking dynamo for Melbourne Storm in this win.
Despite only playing 40 minutes of football, the interchange forward managed to make 115 metres (third for Melbourne’s forwards), made eight tackle breaks from his 13 runs and laid 22 tackles.
The Storm kicked eight more times than the Warriors, but it was the kick distance that pinned the Warriors deep in their own half, Melbourne Storm kicking for 894 metres to the Warriors 584. The play:
Billy Slater showed the Warriors just why he would win his first Dally M Medal in 2011.
Conjuring something out of nothing, Slater ran at a packed short side, grubbered, somehow regathered and scored, to mesmerise the Warriors defence.
Possession isn’t everything in a game of rugby league. Despite having 58 per cent of the ball, the Storm barely ran for more metres than the Warriors (7 metres in total), which showed that while the Storm were in control of the match the Warriors are always dangerous.
2011 Round 7 Warriors shock Storm 18-14
Melbourne Storm opened the match with all guns blazing and it wasn't long (3 minutes) before Beau Champion crossed on the back of a sweeping backline play to give the boys an early lead.
20 minutes of tense rugby league would follow before the Warriors hit back, via dangerous centre Krisnan Inu.
They then scored again through Jacob Lillyman, before Micheal Luck scored in controversial fashion, after Storm winger Anthony Quinn made a huge effort to knock the ball loose from big Warriors forward Ukuma Ta’ai.
The video referee awarded a try and the Storm went into the break down by 12.
The second half allowed the Storm to show their spirit and they charged back early with a penalty goal and a try to Cooper Cronk to get within four points of the Warriors, but try as they might the boys just couldn’t grab the win at AAMI Park.
Anthony Quinn was at his barnstorming best, the Melbourne Storm winger making a huge 177 metres and busting four tackles in what was an effort full of merit.
Both teams completed 34 of 40 sets throughout a wet match, for completion rates of 85 per cent, exceptional for an early season game.
Cooper Cronk set the game up for a tight finish with his second half try. Gareth Widdop put the bomb up and Billy Slater flew above the pack and batted the ball back to allow Cronk to score.
Just as Wests Tigers learned last week, Krisnan Inu is a confidence player and when his confidence is up he is dangerous, his scrappy try was what got the Warriors going in the first place, he also broke seven tackles from 13 runs and must be closely watched.