Sea Eagles v Storm: Five key points

Melbourne and Manly added another chapter to their storied rivalry with the Storm just holding on to claim a 30-26 win in an 11-try thriller at Lottoland. 

Improved Storm far from perfect 

Storm skipper Cameron Smith was disappointed with his side's inability to hold Manly out on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't all doom and gloom for Melbourne who are now on 12 competition points through seven rounds. 

After being held to a solitary penalty goal last week, Craig Bellamy's men recorded their highest score of the season with six tries in the first alone, but the most pleasing aspect of the narrow win was Melbourne's completion rate. 

The Storm were dreadful at times against the Sharks, completing just 69 per cent of their sets but they bounced back in style, getting through 31 of their 34 sets against the Sea Eagles. 

Despite the improvement in ball control, Smith believes his side has a long way to go if they want to be a threat come the business end of the season.

"At the end of the day, we got a win, but we can't continue to play like that," he said. "You play inconsistent football during the year, it will come back to bite you at the end of the year when it matters." 

Munster makes successful return 

He might not have started the game, but Cameron Munster looked comfortable when he slotted into the halves to give fans their first look at Melbourne's new spine. 

Saturday's game was the first time Munster had played since breaking his jaw against the Broncos, but the 22-year-old had to bide his time on the bench before coming on to replace Ryley Jacks at five-eighth. 

"He hasn't played in a month so we knew he'd be a bit rusty and we thought it would be ideal to bring him off the bench today," Bellamy said. 

"Ryley has been doing a terrific job for us, but we know we're going to have Cameron in the side somewhere [because] he's a real footy player.

"That doesn't mean he's going to be five-eighth every week because he can play fullback, five-eighth or centre and you could probably throw him in the back-row and he'd do a fair job because he's a real footy player."

 


Slater sizzles against familiar foe

Watching Billy Slater take on rival fullback Brett Stewart used to be one of the highlights on the rugby league calendar, and while injuries have affected both champions of the game, the Storm No.1 showed he is anything but a spent force. 

Slater showed no ill-effects of the shoulder injury that has cut short his past two seasons, with the Melbourne maestro laying on three try assists in the first half to help his side to a match-winning lead. 

While Craig Bellamy would have wanted his star custodian available throughout 2015 and 2016, the Storm coach conceded time away from the game might have helped the representative fullback in the long run.  

"He's obviously getting a little bit better. We're not expecting too much this early because he's missed a lot of footy," Bellamy said. 

"It might be a bit of a benefit to him because it might freshen him up because of his age and how many games he's played. 

"He didn't want to have that time off but it looks like it's freshened him up. He looks sharp and his involvements are high so we're really happy with how he's going."

Mixed news on injury front

Manly fans were holding their breath when skipper Daly Cherry-Evans stayed down in the opening minutes with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury. 

Fortunately the star playmaker shrugged off the knock and payed the 80 minutes, revealing in the post-match press conference that it was nothing more than a burner.

The news wasn't so good for teammate Lloyd Perrett who was taken to hospital after the game for scans on a sternum injury. 

Modern-day rivalry delivers once more 

It wasn't the sort of bone-bruising affair we've come to expect from the Sea Eagles and Storm over the years, but the sides still managed to produce an equally enthralling clash at Lottoland. 

Melbourne and Manly have developed one of the great rivalries in rugby league over the past decade headlined by back-to-back grand finals in 2007 and 2008, with their games characterised by nail-biting finishes and plenty of late drama.

Aside from last year's blowout win for the Storm, the sides have put on some epics in recent years, with five of the past six matches – including Saturday's game – decided by four points or less.