Warriors beat Storm in Anzac thriller
It was a win those across the Tasman will cherish for some time.
New Zealand arrived in Melbourne at 15th position on the NRL ladder but will leave feeling on top of the world after notching a 16-10 victory over the Storm at in front of a record Anzac Day crowd.
- Storm just not clicking: Bellamy
- Win extra special for Tomkins
- Warriors win a massive confidence boost
- Fears O'Neill may have ankle fracture
- WATCH: Storm v Warriors highlights
- WATCH: Shaun Johnson's freakish try
- WATCH: Storm press conference
- WATCH: Warriors press conference
- Full match stats
- Relive our live commentary
Led by Ngani Laumape (178 metres), Nathan Friend (109 meters, 49 tackles) and attacking wildcards Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins, the Warriors were good value for their win in front of 28, 716 people – the biggest ever NRL crowd at AAMI Park.
It may have been a Storm home crowd but the Kiwis in the crowd were out in full voice, often drowining out their purple counterparts as their side put in a performance to make them proud.
A blistering start was capped off by a dogged defensive effort in the second half that saw what was the worst defence in the NRL prior to this round withstand a supreme amount of pressure.
They may have been rank outsiders but from the moment the game started the Warriors came to play. And it was in the eighth minute that the visitors opened the scoring.
A perfectly waited Shaun Johnson pass across field eventually ended up in the hands of David Fusitua who stretched to his limits down the right for the game's opener.
In the first half hour the Warriors enjoyed 61% of possession, as the home side was forced to make 81 more tackles.
The frustration levels of those in purple began to grow with each passing minute and they were made to feel even more on edge after 28 minutes, when Warriors captain Simon Mannering played in Feleti Mateo and the enigmatic forward split the Storm defence down the middle to cross under the posts and mark his return to the side by handing the visitors a 10-nil advantage.
As if the scoreline was not enough cause for concern for the Storm, centre Justin O'Neill was forced to leave the field after 34 minutes with an ankle injury.
Melbourne needed an ounce of luck and the Warriors dually obliged four minutes from the break.
The usually clinical Cooper Cronk played an inside ball to absolutely no-one 15 metres from the Warriors' line, however the error seemed to even baffle his opposition who couldn't recover the ball. Cronk found himself in possession again off the ensuing play and this time played a clean ball onto Kevin Proctor for the home side's first points.
A Shaun Johnson penalty goal after the siren gave the Warriors a 12-6 half-time lead but given their territorial dominance the margin rather flattered their hosts.
The Storm hit just four minutes into the second half, with a repeat set of six capped off by a brilliant string of passes by Ryan Hoffman and Tohu Harris to eventually see Young Tonumaipea cross for his third try of the season to reduce the margin to two.
Momentum was all with the men in purple after the break as they enjoyed eight of the first eight possessions and had the tired Warriors defence gasping for air.
On 56 minutes the Storm were set to hit the lead when Billy Slater tried to break through a two-man tackle, only for his stretch for the line to be judged centimeters short by the video referee.
Despite dodging a bullet the Warriors defence – ranked the worst in the competition – was under siege and it looked as though the visitors' bundle would eventually be dropped.
Instead, Shaun Johnson produced a moment of brilliance to make a mockery of Storm's left side defence, sidestepping two would-be tacklers and playing a quick one-two to waltz over the line and flip the script as the Warriors restored their six-point lead.
As the minutes crept by the realisation set in at AAMI Park for those with purple hearts as this was not to be their night as they slumped to their third loss in four games.
But the Warriors will not care one little bit as the gutsy manner in which their third win of the season came was fitting of the occasion.
The Storm will host the Sea Eagles after next week's international break while the Warriors will play the Raiders at Eden Park.