Dragons v Storm: Five key points
With stars away on State of Origin duty this Round 15 fixture bred plenty of positives for both teams in the Dragons' 20-10 win over the Storm.
It wasn't pretty but it'll do for the Dragons
Dragons coach Paul McGregor believes his side's win was the first game in 2016 in which he was able to sit back and relax in the closing stages. While the Dragons' win wasn't enough to lift them into the top eight of the NRL Telstra Premiership, McGregor said any win over Melbourne was one worth savouring.
"I'm happy to get the two points and to be able to enjoy the last 10 minutes of the footy for the first time this year where we built a lead that we could hold on to, it was nice," McGregor said.
"We can improve but we had a five-day turnaround and came in with a purpose to win the game. There was a lot of intent about what we done so to score 20 and get a win over Melbourne is real pleasing."
The Red V were disappointed by their last-start loss to the Bulldogs – when 11 of the Dogs' 17 made over 100 metres – but on Saturday night the Storm featured just six triple-figure metre-eaters.
Depleted Storm brave in defeat
With a spine consisting of Young Tonumaipea, Tohu Harris, NRL debutant Brodie Croft and Slade Griffin the Storm always had an uphill battle ahead of them. With Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk already unavailable because of Origin duty, the Storm were also dealt the late withdrawals of Cameron Muster, Blake Green and Tim Glasby. Furthermore, the Storm were at one stage on the wrong end of seven consecutive penalties and had to defend an extra nine sets.
"I was really proud of our defensive effort," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
"The amount of ball St George had there – in the middle of the game at one stage the penalties were 9-1 against us – so it was tough going in that respect.
"It would've been easy for them to think it was all too hard. So our defensive effort was tremendous and while it's disappointing to see our guys put in that much effort and not come away with a win we still have reason to be proud."
Who in the world is Brodie Croft?
Only the avid of the Holden Cup watchers could tell you about Brodie Croft prior to his NRL debut against the Dragons.
Just a month shy of his 19th birthday, Croft – the ninth-youngest player to make his debut for the Storm – was handed playmaking duties with Cronk , Smith and Green unavailable.
Croft has shared his time between the Easts Tigers and the under-20s in 2016 and after training with the NRL squad over the pre-season was handed his first crack at first grade.
"They obviously knew he was playing because he made 31 tackles," Bellamy said of the Highfields Eagles junior's defensive effort in particular. "He kept putting his body in front all night and did a great job."
Sims thrown into the action early
McGregor had no qualms throwing new recruit Tariq Sims into proceedings early. Sims joined the Dragons on Wednesday and featured in one training session prior to his late inclusion. The former Knights co-captain only played 32 minutes but produced a handy 131 metres and two tackle breaks in that time.
"He was outstanding," McGregor said of Sims. "You can't ask much more from a bloke who was making his debut and been at the club for 48 hours.
"I'm very pleased for Tariq. He enjoyed it out there and he has bright future after agreeing to stay at the club for the next three years."
Bromwich captains country before club
Surprisingly, Saturday's match was the first time Jesse Bromwich ran out as captain of the Storm. A testament to regular skipper Smith's longevity in the game, Bromwich was able to captain New Zealand in May even before given the nod for the club he's featured for 146 times.
"Obviously it's a proud achievement for me," Bromwich said. "I'm very humbled at the same time. It's something I was really looking forward to when I found out and I thought we did a great job out there."