The Melbourne Storm were far from their best but the premiers did enough to beat a brave Gold Coast Titans 28-14 in the opening clash of the double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The Titans led 14-8 until the 50th minute and fought to the end despite having no players left on the bench with more than a quarter of the match remaining.
Keegan Hipgrave had a suspected broken wrist and he joined Kevin Proctor (groin) and Will Matthews (HIA) on the sideline. Jarrod Wallace also underwent and HIA but was cleared to return.
They also lost Jack Stockwell to concussion in the 67th minute after an attempted tackle on Dale Finucane went wrong.
Amazingly, Hipgrave returned with his left wrist heavily strapped as the Titans had no one else who could possibly fill the 13th spot on the field.
The Storm finished the match with 12 men after prop Christian Welch was sin-binned for a professional foul for holding back Titans debutant Alexander Brimson when a try may have given Gold Coast a chance to pull off a courageous victory.
Match: Storm v Titans
Round 10 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Melbourne had begun perfectly but were scratchy at times after that. In the third minute, Curtis Scott crossed the line too easily from a shift to the left. Cameron Smith sent a good long ball to Cameron Munster who face-balled Scott into a glaring hole on the Titans' right edge. Smith converted for 6-0.
The Titans struck back in the 24th minute when right centre Brenko Lee crossed on debut for the club. The Titans shifted the ball to the right and Josh Addo-Carr knocked down a pass, giving the Titans six again. On the first, the ball again went right and Ash Taylor took it to the line and found Lee who wriggled free of Munster and Scott to force the ball.
The Titans took the lead in the 28th minute when Dale Copley capitalised on some good work by Mitch Rein and Taylor to score in his first match back from a hamstring injury.
Gordon was again successful with his conversion and the Titans had gone from eight behind to four in front in a matter of five minutes.
A penalty goal soon after saw Gold Coast lead 14-8 at the break and the mood of the game had changed on the back of a string of possession to the Titans.
Match highlights: Storm v Titans – Round 10, 2018
The Storm looked out of sorts with their attack, emphasised by Smith throwing a forward pass from dummy half. But in the 50th minute they clicked into gear when Munster, Cam Smith and Joe Stimson combined to put Felise Kaufusi over. Smith converted to level the scores at 14-14.
Smith added a penalty goal with 17 minutes remaining and Munster took them further ahead when he scored on the left, stepping Lee who charged off his line but was ineffective in the tackle. Smith converted for 22-14.
The Titans refused to wilt and Brimson almost scored on debut in the 72nd minute when he grubbered through and was likely to be the first to the ball but was held back by Welch, who was binned.
However, the Titans squandered the next opportunity when they threw the ball left two rucks after the penalty and a pass from Michael Gordon to Anthony Don was ruled forward 20 metres out.
Soon after, Addo-Carr sealed the result when he raced 60 metres to score his 12th try of the season, one ahead of Warrior David Fusitu'a at top of the tryscoring list.
Smith's conversion made it 28-14 but it was hardly a true reflection of the contest. And the skipper may find himself in bother after his former Melbourne teammate Kevin Proctor left the field with a groin injury in the 57th minute. It appeared a leg pull by Smith may have contributed to the injury as Proctor's body split in two directions.
News & Notes: Will Matthews had to wait an extra week but performed well in his 100th NRL match. He was used to having patience; he is in his 11th season in the NRL since making his debut for the Titans in round 16 in 2008 and then having six seasons with the Dragons... The Titans' completion rate of 94 per cent in the first half (16 from 17 sets) was their best phase of ball control this season, far superior to the Storm's 75 per cent...AJ Brimson had a handy debut at No. 6 for the Titans. He is one of 11 players to debut in the Titans' NRL colors this season behind Michael Gordon, Mitch Rein, Jai Arrow, Will Matthews, Bryce Cartwright, Jack Stockwell, Brendan Elliot, Moeaki Fotuaika, Brenko Lee and Leilani Latu.