To open the game, all eyes were on Billy Slater playing in his 300th game, just the 31st player to reach the milestone.
At the end of it, it was a spoiled party as the Wests Tigers produced a second successive upset to defeat the Melbourne Storm 10-8 at AAMI Park.
Showing that their round one win over the Roosters was not a fluke, the Wests Tigers were led around the park brilliantly by veteran half Benji Marshall.
It was a slow opening twenty minutes as neither side really took control of the game.
The Storm, who are usually so good at maintaining possession and applying the pressure, made 16 errors.
Their attack was fluid, however, although despite their best efforts, they were unable to penetrate a steely Tigers defensive line.
As the half-time break ensued, the Tigers took a surprise 4-0 lead into it courtesy of two penalty goals from Esan Marsters.
It was here that the game then started to turn on its head.
Despite adding a third penalty goal, the Tigers were under the pump for much of the second half.
They eventually cracked as Slater’s bullet-like pass found Fijian winger Suliasi Vunivalu to score.
Cameron Smith then added a penalty goal to give the Storm the lead for the first time.
Many would have thought that was the end of it, that that was the final score.
They were wrong. With one last roll of the dice, the Tigers hit the ball up.
Ben Matulino, a star off-season recruit, produced a magical one-handed offload to a hard-running Luke Brooks and he did the rest.
Cutting inside defenders to score, giving the Tigers two wins on the trot to start the season and two straight upset wins.
For the man of the moment Brooks, the possibility of winning was something that never left their minds.
”Even when they got that penalty goal to go in front, I still was confident we’d get the win,” Brooks said.
”[It’s] all the training we’ve done during pre-season. We’ve really worked hard at the end of the game, the last ten minutes of each half. It’s helped us.”
Never one to beat around the bush, Storm coach Craig Bellamy lamented his side’s performance.
”We need to be better than that,” Bellamy said.
”For a guy that has played 300 games for our club, and for a guy who has played 100 games for our club, to have a lack of intent to start the game, that isn’t good enough.”
In the end, Bellamy admitted that the Tigers were hungrier for the win.
”They just beat us to the jump on everything tonight,” Bellamy said.
”Especially the first half, they had a lot more intent with us with their running. I just think they outworked us and out-enthused us.
”We did some really good things but did some really poor things. It probably crept along from last week too. We need to get back to doing the basic things really well and consistently.”
Tigers captain Russell Packer praised his side’s gutsy performance.
”We’re just fighting hard for each other and playing like a team,” he said.
”That’s one of the big things Ivan drives within our squad is competing all the way to the end and being there when the game’s on the line.”
Player of the Game:
3. Benji Marshall
2. Luke Brooks
- Dale Finucane