Melbourne storm home to tame Tigers
Melbourne have stormed back from an early 14-point deficit to extend their unbeaten start to the year with a gutsy 22-14 win over the Wests Tigers.
Following a week of off-field turmoil that saw Jason Taylor replaced as head coach, the Tigers – spurred on by a typically vocal crowd at Leichhardt – took advantage of a strangely sloppy start by the Storm to shoot out to a big lead.
Ahead 14-0, it looked like David Nofoaluma had capped a sensational first half with a try from a scrum, but the winger's effort was correctly denied because of an obstruction in the lead-up.
It would prove to be a costly miss as the Storm crossed in the shadows of half-time through big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona after the hulking forward had forced the ball free in a jolting tackle on Joel Edwards.
Melbourne's momentum carried into the second half with Cronk breaking through before Josh Addo-Carr was spectacularly denied a try against his former side by a terrific mid-air tackle just short of the line.
There has been plenty of talk about the Tigers' 'Big Four' in recent days, but the Storm showed the original is always the best with Cameron Smith nailing a crucial 40/20 before Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater combined to send Young Tonumaipea over.
The first-half woes of the Storm were quickly forgotten when Cheyse Blair caught the ruck defence napping to scoot 85 metres from dummy-half to give his side the lead and silence the Leichhardt Oval faithful.
Having jogged alongside his teammate for the previous try, Josh Addo-Carr joined in on the fun with an almost identical effort from his own half with the winger blitzing the defence with his unrivalled speed to open up an eight-point lead that proved too much for the Tigers to reel in.
Earlier, Melbourne got off to a sloppy start with Cronk turning the ball over with a pass to no-one before Tonumaipea put down a cross-field kick, and it looked like the Tigers would punish them only for Mitch Moses to lose the ball over the line.
Further errors to Christian Welch and Dale Finucane kept the blowtorch on the Storm, but the competition's best defence scrambled well to again repel the hosts and looked set to open the scoring only for Addo-Carr's long-range effort to be called back for a knock on.
The weight of possession eventually told 11 minutes into the contest when Moses spun out of a tackle close to the line and picked himself up to dive over to give his side a lead that had been a long time coming.
The Tigers pushed the lead out to eight points with a pair of Moses penalty goals after Kevin Naiqama had been taken out without the ball while supporting a Luke Brooks break before Tonumaipea was pinged for lashing out with the boot trying to kick out of a tackle.
Spurred on by a parochial home crowd, the Tigers moved further in front when Luke Brooks played short for a hard-running Elijah Taylor to bounce over to make it 14-0.
That's as good as it got for the black and golds who slumped to 1-3 and they could be without Luke Brooks for a while after the halfback limped off with a hamstring injury in the second half.
Storm 22 (Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Young Tonumaipea, Cheyse Blair, Josh Addo-Carr tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals) def. Wests Tigers 14 (Mitch Moses, Elijah Taylor tries; Mitch Moses 3 goals) at Leichhardt Oval. Half-time: 6-14. Crowd: 12,649.