Storm v Dragons: Five key points
The talking points from Melbourne's comfortable win over the struggling Dragons in Napier, New Zealand on Saturday.
Dragons' toothless attack
When it came to possessing the football sadly it was a case of same old, same old for St George-Illawarra. For the second time this season they were restricted to just four points by the Storm. Indeed you have to go back to early May for the last time the Red V scored more than 16 points in a game. Their attacking woes extend beyond any one player but Paul McGregor will clearly be praying for more out of Gareth Widdop who again went without a try assist for the fifth time in his last six games.
Matt Duffie returns at last
Every now and then you get a rugby league story that warms the heart. Such a story came through an hour before kick-off when Melbourne named Matt Duffie on the wing. It was the call-up he had waited 847 days to receive. The 24-year-old had been to hell and back over the last four years that have included a shoulder injury and multiple knee reconstructions. Within the opening 10 minutes you got the sense why the Storm have stuck by him all this time. He provided an aerial threat, particularly early, before a lack of match fitness understandably got the better of him. He finished with 91 metres but more importantly walked off the field intact and ready for what is hopefully the second coming of this talented youngster.
"Me and his teammates havn't seen everything he has gone through," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
"He has obviously shown a lot of resilience, a lot of perseverance to get through was he has been through.
"To play like that tonight was tremendous. To me, it was a nice warm feeling at the end for him to get through it and have some really good touches.
"We were wrapped for him to play like he did and get through unscathed. Hopefully now he can have an uninterrupted run with injury because he deserves it."
Napier welcomes the NRL with open arms
A near sold-out McLean Park saw 14,532 fans turn out for the first ever NRL game in Napier. The cold east-coast temperatures did little to deter the locals from turning out for the clash. The crowd appeared to be predominantly purple in preference, probably due to Storm forward Tohu Harris who grew up just a 15-minute drive from the ground. Bellamy admitted that the two flights to get there had been a burden but said he was glad the club had made the trip.
"We decided early in the week we were going to look at it as a positive experience," Bellamy said.
"We were going back to one of our teammate's hometown so it was a big occasion for him and we wanted to make sure he enjoyed it.
"I think I can speak for most of the players when I say that we really enjoyed the two or three days over here and to top it off with a performance like that, it's been a good weekend."
Koroibete steals the show, again
In what was a game largely for the defensive purist the hair-raising highlight came three minutes before half-time.
Local boy Harris, playing in front of family and friends in Napier, intercepted a wayward Benji Marshall pass and handed the ball to his Fijian left-sided partner and from there it was a race Marika Koroibete will rarely lose.
The lightning-quick winger, who had 167 metres for the night, blazed a trail down the left touchline, leaving a flailing Gareth Widdop no chance of an ankle tap.
The play will deservedly hit the Monday highlight reel and gave the Hawkes Bay crowd a taste of what this great game is all about.
Draw opens up for Storm
Back-to-back dominant wins and a favourable draw to come now has Melbourne well placed for the business end of the season. For the second week running Melbourne looked a class above their opposition at both ends of the park and have appeared to have found a way to cope without the mercurial Billy Slater.
Saturday's win over the Dragons elevated the Storm back into the top four with remaining games still to come over the weekend.
Regardless of other results, the Storm now face a favourable four weeks that sees them play three of the bottom four sides of the competition. A short turnaround against Wests Tigers is followed by games against the Titans, Sharks and Knights.
Nothing is a certainty in this game but such a schedule appears to have coincided conveniently with a return to form for the men in purple.