You don’t see this every day.
Melbourne lost three key players mid-match to injury including skipper Cameron Smith but have rallied for a courageous 20-4 Friday night NRL win over Parramatta.
The Storm were at one stage left with no reserves on their AAMI Park bench but dug deep to hold out the determined but luckless Eels.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said he couldn’t recall a match like it.
“They were really gutsy tonight,” he said.
“I questioned our hunger last week but it was a huge effort and I couldn’t be prouder.”
The victory returned them to the top of the NRL ladder, although the Sydney Roosters can regain the lead with a win over Canberra on Sunday.
A back injury meant Smith and bustling winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) didn’t return for the second half and they were soon joined on the sidelines by giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who suffered a serious ankle problem.
Bellamy said Smith suffered back spasms although was hopeful he would return for next round’s clash with Gold Coast.
Asofa-Solomona is set for a stint on the sidelines as is Smith’s replacement, Brandon Smith, who suffered a knee injury.
Melbourne had no-one left to call on when Dale Finucane had to get his head stitched, although the lock managed to return to play out the match.
Adding further drama Cameron Munster was sinbinned at the 60-minute mark for a professional foul, while Brandon Smith limped off with 10 minutes left to play.
Melbourne had built a 10-0 lead at halftime thanks to a try by Will Chambers and two penalties.
Asofa-Solomona then made a key contribution early in the second half just before his departure.
The Kiwi prop ran onto a dummy-half pass, barged across the line and defied the efforts of three Eels desperate to stop him grounding the ball. The conversion opened up a 16-0 lead.
With the Storm in disarray, the Eels saw an opportunity but poor decision making meant they couldn’t find a way to penetrate the steely goal line defence to make their mark on the scoreboard.
Coach Brad Arthur said while Melbourne were too good, his team didn’t make the most of their chances.
“I thought the boys tried really hard tonight and created some opportunities but we didn’t take them and you can’t do that against close to the best side in the competition,” Arthur said.
“We needed to calm down and build a bit more pressure at the tryline.”
A 71st minute try by centre Curtis Scott extended the lead to 20-0 before Parramatta skipper Clint Gutherson showed his athleticism to touch down.