Storm clinch golden point victory
A Cooper Cronk field goal in golden point extra time has handed the Storm a thrilling 19-18 win over the Tigers in front of 9,216 dejected fans at Leichhardt Oval.
Sunday's clash celebrated everything 1980s so it was fitting that the Storm halfback would play the role of 'Iceman'.
In a see-sawing contest, Cameron Munster was spectacular for the Storm, running for 205 metres and defusing every kick sent his way, while skipper Cameron Smith had an off night with the boot nailing just one kick from five attempts.
The biggest talking point to come out of the game was the decision not to stop play after Tigers fullback James Tedesco was belted by Storm debutante Suliasi Vunivalu in the 52nd minute.
As the Tigers No.1 lay on the turf, the Storm methodically went downfield, with Vunivalu somewhat ironically scoring the try against the 12-man defensive line to give his side the lead.
Replays suggested the tackle was high and referee Ashley Klein subsequently placed the Storm winger on report, but the try still stood.
Tedesco left the field for a head assessment test, but would later return for the final frantic 10 minutes.
Both teams blooded debutants, with Josh Addo-Carr and JJ Felise coming in for the Tigers, while Vunivalu was a late inclusion for the Storm.
For the latter, his first game in the NRL couldn't have started any better, with the Fijian-born winger scoring barely a minute into his debut.
After the Storm marched 62 metres from the kick-off, Vunivalu leapt highest to bat a Cronk kick back to Kevin Proctor, before the back-rower linked up with Richard Kennar who offloaded to the flying winger to score.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to hit back, and fittingly it was through their own first gamer on the right wing. Some quick hands proved too much for the Storm defence to handle, with Tedesco's lightning fast pass enough to send former Shark Addo-Carr over to level the scores.
Controversy soon followed as Chris Lawrence looked destined to score from a Robbie Farah grubber, only for Kennar to drag him back from the contest to deny what would have been a certain try.
The officials erred on the side of caution, sending the Storm centre to the sin bin instead of awarding a penalty try.
Jordan Rankin knocked over the gift two points to give his side the lead, but that would be the only points the Tigers scored with the numerical advantage.
Melbourne dominated possession with a man in the bin, and could have levelled the scores had Smith not missed a very kickable shot at goal.
Having failed to score a try with the extra man, it took the Tigers just 30 seconds to do so against equal numbers when Luke Brooks raced out of the line to pick off a pass from his opposite number to race 60 metres and score.
Melbourne looked to have hit back shortly after, only for Marika Koroibete's fingernails to scrape the sideline to deny him what would have been a miraculous sliding effort on the greasy Leichhardt surface.
Having gone close at one end, the Fijian flyer was then called upon to stop a try at the other after countryman Kevin Naiqama intercepted a Blake Green pass but couldn't link up with Addo-Carr thanks to a great chase by the Storm speedster.
After a sloppy but at times highly entertaining first half, the Storm started the second forty exactly the same way they did in the first stanza, scoring inside three minutes.
Having played a part in their first four pointer, Cronk did it all himself with a show and go to bounce over before Smith nailed the conversion to make it a two-point game.
The Tigers should have responded immediately through stand-in co-captain Chris Lawrence, but the veteran Tiger was denied courtesy of a forward pass from Brooks.
It would be a moment the hosts would regret, as a clever kick from Smith earned the Storm a repeat set, and from the ensuing set, Koroibete got the try he deserved against his former club, although the final pass may have been slightly forward.
Despite trailing, the Tigers were still well and truly in the contest, and with 12 minutes remaining crossed for their third try of the evening through Naiqama to set up a grandstand finish. Rankin had a chance to level the scores at 18 but couldn't convert from out wide.
A penalty against Blake Green in the 79th minute for being offside offered Rankin one last chance to be the hero and the winger coolly potted the points to send the game into overtime.
Both teams had their chances to slot field goals, with the sides combining for four misses before C
ronk stepped up to show why he is the game's ‘Top Gun’ when it comes to drop goals.
Melbourne Storm 19 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Cooper Cronk, Marika Koroibete tries; Cameron Smith 1 goal; Cooper Cronk field goal) defeated Wests Tigers 18 (Josh Addo-Carr, Luke Brooks, Kevin Naiqama tries; Jordan Rankin 3 goals) at Leichhardt Oval. Half-time: 12-4 Tigers. Crowd: 9,216. Sin bin: Richard Kennar (professional foul). On report: Suliasi Vunivalu (high tackle).