Storm outscore Dragons in 14-try thriller
Melbourne's young playmakers Jahrome Hughes, Brodie Croft and Ryley Jacks turned on the razzle-dazzle in the absence of Storm's Origin stars to outpoint the Dragons in a 52-30 thriller at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
However, despite all their good work in having a say in most of the Storm's nine tries, the South Sydney Rabbitohs now sit on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder - by way of a bye - after the Dragons suffered only their fourth loss of the year.
With Cameron Munster and Billy Slater in the Maroons camp, Hughes stood up with a dynamic performance that included a try, 209 running metres, and an error-free display at fullback.
A total of 14 tries were scored in a frenetic display of football, with the Dragons leading 30-28 with 20 minutes to play.
But the Storm kicked clear with four tries in the last stanza to run out comfortable winners.
During the week, Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted his team would have to "grind out a win", but they instead turned on the entertainment big-time in a high-scoring game against the competition leaders.
Match: Storm v Dragons
Round 17 -
Venue: AAMI Park
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Hughes gobbled up every kick that came his way at fullback - moved there by Bellamy at the 11th hour after naming him at halfback - and kicked intelligently along the ground.
Croft, whose last NRL game was back in round five before being sent to the Intrust Super Cup, produced a super all-round attacking game. Jacks also played a solid match creating many plays.
In a windy and warm night, with the temperature hovering around 20 degrees at kick-off, both sides settled into a frenzied display of football.
Curtis Scott scored the Storm's first off a pinpoint Jacks kick, and the Dragons hit back quickly a few minutes later through Kurt Mann, who finished off a classy move down the right-hand side.
Croft then burst up the field in a weaving run, stepping both James Graham and Matt Dufty to score his side's second try and bring a 12-6 lead.
Gareth Widdop hit a perfect cut-out pass to Nene Macdonald, who managed an acrobatic try in the corner to level the scores by swapping the ball from his left to his right hand before grounding.
The Storm grabbed another one of their own through Cheyse Blair, with the centre going in untouched after some quick passing.
Dragons centre Euan Aitken scored down the right edge but the Storm finished the half with the lead through a special Ryan Hoffman try.
The 34-year-old dummied his way on a 45-metre dash that left Dragons fullback Matt Dufty clutching at air.
Ten minutes after the break, St George Illawarra got on the score sheet again after an inside run by Luciano Leilua, who scored his first NRL try.
Hughes put the Storm ahead after a rampaging Nelson Asofa-Solomona run, with the fullback overcoming three defenders to push the Storm ahead with just over 20 minutes to go.
The Dragons weren't done though and scored a simple scrum base try to Mann - his second against his old club. Just like that, the Dragons were ahead, 30-28.
But quick tries to Hughes, Blair, Jacks and Suliasi Vunivalu in the final 15 minutes proved too much for the Dragons. It was their 15th consecutive loss to Storm in the Victorian capital
News & Notes: Dragons second-rower Jacob Host dislocated his right shoulder in the 5th minute and did not return…Hame Sele penalised for a lifting tackle in the 29th minute and could attract match review committee interest… St George Illawarra have not won in Melbourne since 1999… the Dragons have lost four of their past five games away from home...and now host the Wests Tigers at Jubilee Oval at Kogarah next weekend.. Storm travels to Lottoland to face Manly.