With their Origin players missing, the Melbourne Storm’s young guns in Jahrome Hughes and Brodie Croft stepped up in a 14-try thriller.
In a game that saw a total of 82 points scored, the Storm finished up 52-30 winners at AAMI Park.
It was a late change that prompted Hughes move to fullback and it was justified, with the utility back involved in everything.
In a somewhat cool night with windy conditions, the teams initially went tit-for-tat when it came to tries.
Curtis Scott opened the scoring for the Storm, before Kurt Mann hit back for the St George Illawarra Dragons, capitalising on a swift play.
Croft then turned on the afterburners as he sliced through some lazy Dragons defence to put the Storm up 12-6.
Scores were then level yet again as a Gareth Widdop cut-out pass found Nene Macdonald who finished acrobatically in the corner.
Cheyse Blair and Euan Aitken then scored further tries for their sides.
Though on the stroke of half-time, veteran Ryan Hoffman burst through a gap, dummied to bamboozle Matt Dufty and went over to score.
As the second half ensued, it was the Dragons who would score first and again hit back.
Young back-rower Luciano Leilua ran the perfect line to stroll over for his maiden NRL try.
The Storm were not about to rest on their laurels, though; as Hughes was on the end of a barnstorming Nelson Asofa-Solomona break to score.
The Dragons then took the lead as Mann grabbed his second with a rare shortside play off the scrum.
That would be it for the Dragons, though, as the Storm scored four tries in the last fifteen minutes to notch the 50-point mark and get the win.
With Billy Slater on Origin duty, Storm coach Craig Bellamy gave Hughes the chance at the back and praised him for his performance.
“Jahrome was tremendous, Jacksy did a really good job,” Bellamy said.
He ran the ball and was really hard to handle. I thought those guys were really outstanding.”
Storm captain Cameron Smith made some comparisons between Hughes and Dragons fullback Dufty.
“We spoke about one of their opposition players, Dufty, the fullback, and any opportunity to find or see space that he is a dangerous runner,” Smith said.
“I think Jahrome Hughes is much the same. Any opportunity to get in some space or in between defenders, he took it tonight.
“Since he’s come into the first grade side, he’s been outstanding.”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor was honest in his post-game assessment, offering no excuses.
“I thought we attacked well,” he said.
“We had some really good movement with the footy once we got into any decent field position.
Defensively, our right edge was affected a little bit by the interchange early, and it wasn’t efficient enough after that.”
Player of the Game:
3. Jahrome Hughes
2. Cameron Smith
- Nelson Asofa-Solomona