Melbourne Storm came from behind to secure a thrilling 18-16 victory against the Parramatta Eels at AAMI Park in the Qualifying Final on Saturday afternoon in the opening week of the NRL Premeirship play-off series.
The Storm, despite taking an early lead, trailed 4-10 at half-time and they had to work hard in the second half to defeat a resurgent Parramatta.
They took the lead after just four minutes when Josh Addo-Carr took a Curtis Scott pass to touch down in the corner.
But, despite dominating possession, the Storm made some uncharacteristic handling errors, with Cameron Munster losing the ball as he tried to touch down and then being sin-binned for a professional foul for stopping a quick tap restart by the Eels.
Parramatta took advantage an centre Kirisome Auva’a touched down to level the scores.
Eels fullback Will Smith then took a superb pass from Mitchell Moses to take a 10-4 lead, which they held until the interval.
The Storm replied in the second half with two superb tries, keeping the ball alive on the last tackle before Felise Kaufusi handed the ball to Kenny Bromwich, who got over the line from close range.
Billy Slater then caught an Addo-Carr chip kick to put the Storm into the lead and Cameron Smith, who was creating a new NRL appearance record by playing his 356th NRL game, kicked a penalty to put the Storm 18-10 ahead.
The Eels struck back, however, when Semi Radradra touched down after a superb Brad Takairangi run run through the defence, and the conversion by Mitchell Moses reduced the gap to two points.
But the Eels couldn’t convert their late opportunities into points and the Storm held on to advance to the third week of the finals.
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c) 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Dale Finucane; Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 16 Tim Glasby, 17 Slade Griffin
Tries: Addo-Carr, K Bromwich, Slater; Goals: Smith 3
Eels: 1 Will Smith, 2 Semi Radradra, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 Kirisome Auva’a, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown; Interchange: 14 Beau Scott (c), 15 Kenny Edwards, 16 Siosaia Vave, 17 Suaia Matagi
Tries: Auva’a, Smith, Radradra; Goals: Moses 2
Full coverage of all the weekend’s NRL matches will feature in Monday’s issue of League Express, available in the shops and online from Sunday evening.