Storm v Titans: Five key points
Melbourne moved back into the top four race, blowing the Titans out of the water in the second half to record a 36-14 victory. While the Storm wasted several chances in the first half, their class proved too much in the second as they eased past the Titans at AAMI Park.
Here are five things we learned from the Round 22 clash.
Storm attacking weapons show out in the end
Melbourne would have been nervous as they headed into the sheds at halftime facing an 8-6 deficit. That margin was perhaps a false dawn for the Titans though given the Storm had five tries disallowed inside the opening 40 minutes. It appeared it would only be a matter of time before the Storm's plethora of attacking weapons took hold and that was precisely how things played out. Six second-half tries to Melbourne's outside backs, including three in the final 10 minutes, blew the Titans out of the water. Whether it was Cameron Munster's hat-trick, Matt Duffie's double or Will Chambers's first try in nine games, Craig Bellamy had many reasons to sport a rare smile after the game.
Titans roll the dice
Gold Coast arrived in Melbourne with nothing to lose and to their credit they played like that in the early stages. Seven offloads in as many minutes to start the game set the tone for an opening 20 minutes that saw them race to an 8-0 lead with the Storm defence often chasing their tail. Neil Henry's side ended the game with 16 offloads, significantly higher than their season average of 10.6. Unfortunately, for all their attacking flair a need to be able to play at both ends of the park was ultimately their downfall with their line broken seven times in the second half on the back of 18 missed tackles.
Gold Coast cannot get out of their own way
Gold Coast lived up to their standing as the most error prone and penalised team in the competition. It seemed that every time in the second half the Storm were pinned back on their goal line, rather than put the foot down the Titans let them off the hook with sloppy handling errors, often under little to no pressure. With 53% of possession the visitors enjoyed their fair share of possession but after the opening 20 minutes they threatened little. Failure to convert two Cooper Cronk errors off consecutive restarts ultimately told the story between a team simply playing out time in 2015 and the other tuning up for a crack at September action.
Matt Duffie Comeback Story rolls on
One of the NRL's best feel good stories saw yet another heart warming chapter written on Sunday with comeback kid Matt Duffie crossing the line for the first time in more than two years. In his third game back after 847 days sidelined with multiple knee and shoulder reconstructions, the 24-year-old marked his return to AAMI Park in emphatic style. His 33rd minute try was his first since March 23, 2013, but it was his highball catch and cat-like landing for his second that sent the purple faithful into hysterics. The fan fare Duffie received had his coach drawing some unlikely comparisons.
"I made the comment in the box when I saw his name up on the banner [pre-game] that he was getting more admiration than the US president," Bellamy said.
"I didn't realise he'd actually not played at AAMI Park since the injury, it was a big thing for him to come back, we all know what he's been through.
"It is great that he is back and playing as well as he is. Cameron [Smith] made a presentation to him yesterday about his resilience, his toughness and his perseverance so it was always going to be a bit moving for him to come back and play his first game here at AAMI Park."
Tohu Harris feeling at home in the second row
The move by Craig Bellamy to recall Kurt Mann to the centres and allow Tohu Harris to return to his customary role in the second row paid dividends. If not for Cameron Munster's hat-trick, Harris would have had a deserving claim to man of the match honours, he finished with 147 metres and a try assist to the young fullback. It was the Kiwi international's first game back in the No.12 after spending the past fortnight in the Storm's left edge. Bellamy admitted the pre-game re-shuffle was a tactical one and despite his strong showing on Sunday, Tohu's outside experiment may not be over just yet.
"To be really honest we were worried about [James] Roberts' pace today and that is why Tohu didn't play there, we thought we'd put Kurt out there," Bellamy said.
"It is a whole heap unfair on Tohu because he's not really a centre, he's a stop-gap. We sort of threw him there without the life-raft, he was out there learning as he goes but he did a really good job out there for a couple of weeks.
"We will see what suits us and what suits the opposition… having said that we might go back to that again at some stage for the rest of the year."