Wests Tigers took advantage of the rep period – which saw Melbourne’s big three away on Origin duty – to score a hard-fought 10-6 win at AAMI Park in Round 14.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the visitors, who lost their own fullback Tim Moltzen to a hip injury suffered in the warm-up, but they got off to a great start in the driving rain when Benji Marshall produced an early 40/20. From the ensuing set, the Tigers earned a penalty and Marshall slotted the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Only some desperate Melbourne defence in coach Craig Bellamy’s 250th game in charge prevented the Tigers crossing the stripe in the opening half and they were rewarded for their resolve in the final seconds when Rory Kostjasyn darted from dummy-half and the Tigers were found to be well offside in their attempts to hold him up. Gareth Widdop took the penalty and scores were locked 2-2 at the break.
However, the Tigers took less than three minutes to score after the resumption – a slick backline move allowing Lote Tuqiri to crash over out wide. Minutes later they were in again on the opposite side of the field as Blake Ayshford shrugged off a tackle and sent Matt Utai over.
Dane Nielsen set up a thrilling finish when he crashed over with 10 minutes remaining but the Tigers survived some close calls to take the two competition points.
Incredibly, the Tigers missed 35 tackles to the Storm’s 16 and made 12 tackles more, while Melbourne completed 90 per cent of their sets in the pouring rain.
Utai was particularly strong for the visitors with 187 metres from 18 runs and six tackle-breaks. Ryan Hinchcliffe made 40 tackles for the Storm.