Strong performances from halves pairing Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes have helped the Melbourne Storm to a relatively comfortable 22-14 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys at Casey Fields on Saturday evening.
Munster and Hughes combined well — while reserve hooker Harry Grant also caught the eye — as the Storm warmed up for the season proper by making it two from two for their trial matches.
Kicking with the aid of a strong breeze during the opening 40 minutes, Munster helped set up two early tries as the Storm opened up an 18-4 advantage at half-time.
Star fullback Valentine Holmes scored his first try on his return to the NRL after the break to give the Cowboys some hope, but the Storm held on in front of more than 6000 fans in Melbourne's south east.
On evidence from this performance it would appear young gun Cooper Johns will have to wait longer for his NRL debut, with Munster and Hughes all but locked in for the opening rounds of the season.
Morgan and Holmes combine for try against Storm
Grant put his hand up for Brandon Smith's vacant bench spot, with the young hooker scoring a try and setting up Dale Finucane for another in a performance that is sure to catch the eye of veteran coach Craig Bellamy.
The Cowboys will be buoyed by the performance of Holmes, and especially the way he combined with experienced skipper Michael Morgan, while star big man Jason Taumalolo and a host of other regulars will be better for the 40 minutes they received during the match.
Holmes sets up Feldt
The Storm crossed in the opening stanza courtesy of Justin Olam, Suliasi Vunivalu, Finucane and Grant, while Justin O'Neill got a four-pointer for the visitors following a deft kick from Morgan.
Morgan showed his class when he sent Holmes over early in the second half to give the Cowboys an outside chance, but Munster found Hughes shortly after with a cross-field kick as the Storm re-established their double-figure advantage.
Kyle Feldt scored a late try for the Cowboys, but the result was never really in doubt as the Storm claimed the pre-season triumph.
The Storm open up the regular season on the road against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland, while the Cowboys host the Broncos in a blockbuster Queensland derby.