Fearless Wests Tigers stun the Storm again
For the second time in a month the Wests Tigers have showed nerves of steel to beat premiers Melbourne, with season campaigner Benji Marshall's late field goal sealing a courageous 11-10 victory at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
The Tigers' win spoiled Storm coach Craig Bellamy's 400th game milestone, while Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman's 250th game for the club also ended in defeat.
Trailing 10-4 midway through the second half, the never-say-die Tigers tied it up with Chris Lawrence's converted try before Marshall stole the Storm's thunder with his clutch field goal seven minutes from full-time.
Melbourne lost 10-8 at home to the Tigers in round two and have dropped to a very un-Storm-like 2-3 for the season. The Tigers' record stands at 4-1, which is even more impressive considering they have faced the Roosters, Melbourne (twice), Brisbane and Parramatta.
If it wasn't for a highly contentious 9-7 loss to the Broncos in round three the Tigers would be on top of the table with a perfect 5-0 record.
Maybe it's time we all stopped waiting for them to fall over and start giving the Tigers and coach Ivan Cleary credit because it's not fair to dismiss them as a fluke.
Flukes don't usually last five weeks in the Telstra Premiership and they don't handle their business against the perennial heavyweights in the manner the Tigers have been taking care of theirs.
Match: Wests Tigers vs Storm
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Neither side looked like cracking in the first 15 minutes on Saturday and it wasn't until the 17th minute that Storm halfback Brodie Croft opened the scoring with a penalty goal right in front for a 2-0 lead.
Both teams had fleeting chances to grab tries, the Tigers more so than the Storm after some wholehearted attacking raids.
It was an innocuous kick from Marshall that finally led to the first try.
Marshall kicked for touch toward Josh Addo-Carr's wing when Addo-Carr inexplicably attempted to stop the ball from trickling over the sideline, flinging it wildly and blindly over his shoulder.
But instead of finding Storm teammate Billy Slater, the ball went straight to Tigers centre Esan Marsters who sent back-rower Josh Aloiai over for the game's first try.
Tuimoala Lolohea hit the upright with the easy conversion and the score stayed 4-2.
The Storm made amends minutes later with a well-executed set play from a scrum, with fullback Billy Slater showing great hands to scoop up Cameron Munster's kick and score out wide. Croft converted for an 8-4 half-time lead.
The arm-wrestle continued in the second half and it wasn't until the 57th minute that a Croft penalty goal increased the Storm's lead to 10-4.
But Croft was the villain moments later when he didn't even attempt to catch the kick-off after a communication mix-up with winger Suliasi Vunivalu.
The Tigers capitalised with halfback Luke Brooks putting Lawrence through a gap near the Storm try-line with a slick no-look pass. Lolohea converted to lock it up at 10-10 with 19 minutes remaining before Marshall calmly answered the bell in crunch time.
The game was the first of a Mt Smart Stadium double-header, with the New Zealand Warriors hosting North Queensland in game two.