The Melbourne Storm took at least 40 minutes to click into gear, but when they did – the Wests Tigers felt the full force of the afterbuners; as Craig Bellamy’s men rocketed away for an easy win 30-18.
Des Hasler will surely be thanking the Storm for taking the heat off his side as the Melbourne men reaffirmed their premiership favouritism and boom pivot Greg Inglis continued to stand-out as the NRL’s genuine superstar as Melbourne went back to 2nd place on the NRL ladder with their win at Campbelltown Stadium tonight.
Inglis was in everything as he punched through the Tigers defences for a hat-trick of scores and beat 4 players to set up another stunning try, the visitors gate crashing Brett Hodgson’s Campbelltown hometown farewell with a comprehensive 5 touchdowns to 3.
The Storm win allows them to get ahead of Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters into second spot on the table, Melbourne with their sights firmly set on a 3rd minor premiership on the trot after coming out the other side of Origin period with form and injuries intact.
Melbourne may even credit Origin with upping the tempo on their season, with Inglis’s memorable showing for Queensland in game 2 triggering a new run of form which shows no sign of dwindling.
Inglis stepped and jinked to get over for his first try after just 10 minutes before his opposite number Benji Marshall returned serve to position Taniela Tuiaki near the line with a nice face ball cut-out pass across Chris Lawrence 4 minutes later.
The two sides traded tries; but the style of tit for tat looked to be suiting the Melbourne Storm more. The Storm were slowing the tempo at the ruck as they so often do, as the Tigers struggled to get out of their own red zone.
Then it was Hodgson’s turn to get it on, the elusive fullback playing his last game on the same ground he debuted against the South Queensland Crushers in 1997 as a member of Wests Magpies.
Dene Halatau burst downfield on the back of a Marshall inside ball and did well to draw in fullback Billy Slater before putting Hodgson over under the posts for a 12-all ball game.
Tension boiled over just seconds before the break when all 26 players got involved in a bit of push and shove, but that was the last of the fight left in the Tigers who succumbed weakly after the break. The feeling was there and the Tigers were doing well to hang in there; the crowd was involved and Wests looked up for the challenge.
Slater was spectacular in reeling in a Cooper Cronk bomb and taking out Hodgson in one outstanding leap to put Melbourne ahead for good five minutes after halftime, the decision going to the video referee for a possible obstruction by Slater on his opposing No.1. A super leap from Slater that was virtually impossible to defend against, the touchdown really hurting the Tigers early in period 2.
Behind by 6, the Tigers rallied. They managed to re-gain momentum and through some linebreaks eventually received some quality field position. Just when they seemed poised to strike, a brain snap penalty by Beau Ryan gifted the Storm a free pass from their red zone and from the ensuing set Melbourne scored – breaking the spirit of the home side and consigning the Hodgson party to a washout.
Melbourne are too good even without gift penalties; you need to put in 2 perfect halves of football and this one lapse by the Tigers cost them big time.
The touchdown broke the shackles for the Storm, they turned up the pace and the Tigers couldn’t go with them. Slater was defusing anything that came near him and the big Melbourne forwards starting rumbling down field.
Inglis then turned it on in a five minutes blitz to step past four players to put Manu over before brushing off a pair of tacklers for his third of the night.
In the blink of an eye, the Storm had struck. The Wests Tigers knew what they had to do to stop them, they just couldn’t execute.