Storm make statement over Rabbitohs
It's taken them two-and-a-half months, but Melbourne are back, baby.
From the moment George Burgess dropped the ball cold in the opening set, it was all the Storm as the slow-starters finally asserted themselves on the 2014 competition with a 27-14 statement over South Sydney at ANZ stadium on Friday night.
Only Melbourne could prove that you don't need a five-eighth to play this game with their once-in-a-generation big three of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith all starring in their third straight win.
- Our best performance this year: Bellamy
- Sutton, Reynolds fail in Origin audition
- WATCH: Match highlights from Rabbitohs v Storm
- WATCH: Billy Slater tears the Souths defence to shreds
- WATCH: Rabbitohs press conference
- WATCH: Storm press conference
- Full match stats
- Relive our live commentary
The visitors posted first points through that innate combination between Cronk and Slater when the No.7's dink found space in the middle of five Rabbitohs defenders in the fourth minute.
A penalty against South Sydney on the 17-minute mark extended their lead to eight, and minutes later it was 14 when Cronk swivelled his way over off a Sisa Waqa shovel pass.
Only a Storm mistake was going to get the home side back in the game, and the visitors obliged when winger Young Tonumaipea turned it over early in a 31st-minute set. From there the Rabbitohs executed a right-side shift that gave winger Alex Johnston the first of his two tries for the night.
But, having worked their way back into the game, all of their work was brought undone when a string of penalties gave Melbourne a sniff in the final minute of the first half that ended in a Waqa touchdown in the right corner.
Smith duly converted from the sideline for a what was a comprehensive 20-4 lead at the break.
South Sydney needed to score first in the second half and did so three minutes in via a trademark left foot step from five-eighth John Sutton who found a supporting Adam Reynolds on the inside.
And their momentum only grew after three straight penalties – one of which was a dubious late hit on Reynolds that produced an angry tirade from Smith – giving Johnston his fifth try in three matches and turning the contest into a one-possession game.
The turning point came not long after when, after two more penalties to the hosts, Melbourne bravely defended their line.
And one minute later Slater controversially nabbed his second of the night, with video referee Steve Chiddy overruling the on-field decision of an obstruction in the lead-up. Smith's conversion restored Melbourne's 12-point lead, which was sealed with a Cronk field goal in the 73rd minute.
The win moves Melbourne into the top four for the first time this season, while the Rabbitohs, who fought valiantly in the second half, remain one of six teams in the middle of the table on ten points.
In the Under-20s, South Sydney earned their third win in four games with a comprehensive 36-8 victory over Melbourne.
Melbourne 27 (Slater 2, Cronk, Waqa tries; Smith 5 goals, Cronk field goal) def. South Sydney 14 (Johnston 2, Reynolds tries; Reynolds goal) Crowd: 18,508.