Slater shreds Eels in Melbourne
After more than a month out of the team Storm fullback Billy Slater showed he hadn’t missed a beat, steering his side to a 46-20 win at AAMI Park in front of 12,635 spectators.
Two tries, two assists and 152 metres is not a bad way to return to the side, even for someone of Slater’s pedigree – the Eels simply had no answer for him.
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Two first half tries took the star fullback into equal third on the all-time try scorers list alongside Andrew Ettingshausen.
The Billy Show also included some significant contributions from forwards Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris.
Having combined for 372 metres last week, the Kiwi duo backed it up on Sunday with another 349.
Kurt Mann must be thinking how easy it is at the top level as the 21-year-old rookie, a late inclusion for Will Chambers, chimed in with a double of his own to make it five tries from six games while Fijian winger Sisa Waqa also bagged a double.
The Eels made a charge midway through the game but in truth never looked likely as they conceded nine errors and nine penalties.
Jarryd Hayne was gallant backing up from Origin with 191 metres but even he was prone to several handling errors for the afternoon.
Despite having won four of their past five games it was a lackluster start by the Eels who completed just one set and conceded three penalties in the opening 10 minutes.
Having not played for the Storm since round 10, Slater marked his return to the side with a no look pass to Sisa Waqa down the right for the first try of the game after just five minutes.
A Hayne fumble early on gave as big an indication as any that Parra had not come to play.
The hosts were every bit as impressive as the visitors were poor and on 17 minutes made the Storm made their 70 per cent time in possession count.
Ben Hampton collected a goal line drop-out on the 40 metre line, then made light work of the Eels defence before finding that man Slater in support for the first of his two tries.
Just four minutes later he had an early double when Hampton chipped to the right for a waiting Mahe Fonua who cleverly tapped the ball for the Slater to cross again.
Three straight Cameron Smith conversions had things looking quite rosy for the home side as it led 18-nil with little over a quarter of the match gone.
Just when it looked to be getting ugly for the visitors, back to back knock-ons and consecutive penalties against the home side saw momentum take the unlikeliest of shifts.
In the 37th minute some slick ball movement saw a transition to centre Ryan Morgan, in for absent Origin winger Will Hopoate, who went on a streaking 25 metre run, breaking two opposition tackles to cross for his side’s first.
The Eels would make it a double seconds before halftime courtesy of a huge floating 20 metre cut-out pass by Corey Norman that left Semi Radradra in acres of space to cross for his 14th try in as many games this season.
The Chris Sandow conversion suddenly had the halftime scoreline at a manageable 18-10.
But what momentum they had heading into the sheds was wrestled away five minutes into the second half.
David Gower was dubiously placed on report for a crusher tackle on Bryan Norrie and the Eels found themselves further behind thanks again to some more Slater brilliance.
Some fancy footwork by Slater had the Eels line chasing shadows as his deft kick to the in-goal saw the flying Fijian Sisa Waqa reach a ball that few wouldn’t to send the purple fans back onto their feet.
Another Smith conversion, his fourth from as many attempts, had the margin back out to 14 points.
But the Eels again hit back when winger Vai Toutai steamrolled both Young Tonumaipea and Kurt Mann to keep his side within touching distance on 54 minutes.
But what glimmer of hope the Eels had was quickly extinguished as the Storm raced away in the final 20 minutes.
The Storm were awarded a penalty metres from the Parramatta line to which Sandow feverishly protested, with referee Ben Cummins objecting to the halfback's tone and sending him to cool his heels for 10 minutes.
It proved to be the breaking point for the Eels as the young brigade of Mann and Tonumaipea quickly made them pay.
Tonumaipea out leapt all others to tap a Ben Roberts chip kick to Mann who crossed for his fourth try in just six NRL games, and it came through the Eels' right-edge defence where Sandow would have been.
Mann added a fifth, again off a Roberts grubber, as things started to get ugly for the Eels.
The win was iced by late tries to forwards Bryan Norrie and Jordan McLean, who replaced Norrie in the starting side prior to kickoff, and sent the Storms fans into a standing ovation when he crossed for his first try of the season.
The big win moves Melbourne into the top eight and ahead of the Eels, who drop down to eighth spot. The Storm will travel to face St George Illawarra next Monday night while Parramatta will host Newcastle next Sunday afternoon.
Melbourne Storm 46 (Waqa 2, Slater 2, Mann 2, Norrie, McClean tries; Smith 6 goals, Roberts goal) def Parramatta Eels 20 (Morgan 2, Radradra, Toutai tries; Sandow 2 goals). Crowd 12,635.