The Melbourne Storm have held on to defeat the Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
The 20-14 win won’t go down as one of the Storm’s best. However, their scramble defence at the end will please Craig Bellamy.
The Titans’ intentions were clear early on. After an early one on one strip by Brandon Smith, the Storm were camped on the Titans’ try line early in the game. But, in contrast to last weekend, the Titans held their line well and were then the first to score.
With 16 minutes gone, Jayden Campbell did his father proud by showing some silky footwork on the right edge. He got the pass away to Patrick Herbert who slipped the offload to Greg Marzhew. Marzhew crossed untouched in the corner to score in his first NRL game.
It only took three minutes for the Storm to hit back. Perhaps stung by the Titan’s first try, Jahrome Hughes left Jaimin Jolliffe and Brian Kelly grasping at air as he went through the gap. Reimis Smith was backing up on the inside and his converted try gave Melbourne a slender lead.
The match then took on a familiar tone with the Storm dominating a backpedalling Titans defence. On the end of an impressive attacking set, Reimis Smith dived over from dummy half to give Melbourne an eight point lead.
Shortly afterwards, Smith found Trent Loiero on the short side. The local Sunshine Coast product got himself one on one with Kelly and there was only ever one outcome likely.
In the space of ten minutes, the Storm had scored three unanswered tries to lead 16-4. The Titans managed to hold on to the break but the Storm had wrestled control of the match.
However, the Titans were again out of the blocks smartly and scored just two minutes into the second half. After an offload error by Dale Finucane, the Gold Coast held good field position. A well-weighted grubber from Ashley Taylor saw Kelly score and tighten the game up.
With just over 25 minutes remaining, the Storm pushed the lead back out to two converted tries. A classy cut out pass from Nicho Hynes found George Jennings in some space and he managed to get the ball down.
This time though, it was the Titans that hit back quickly. After a mistake from Nelson Asofa-Solomona from the kickoff, the Titans got a couple of sets on the Storm line. Some nice work out of dummy half by Erin Clark saw Jarrod Wallace cross for a well-deserved try.
With just over a quarter of the game to go, the lead was back to one converted try.
Some errors had started to creep into the Storm’s game. The Titans had three repeat sets on the Storm’s line but they held the Gold Coast out.
The Storm defence’s job got harder with 13 minutes remaining, when Reimis Smith was sent to the sin bin for a high shot on Jolliffe.
Hynes and Jesse Bromwich were both guilty of errors in the last ten frenetic minutes. The Storm’s defence was heroic to hold on, but Justin Holbrook will lament a lot of missed chances. The Titans’ left edge was particularly at fault, with Kelly, Esan Marsters and Phillip Sami all butchering chances in the final minutes.
The Storm had kept their amazing run of 23 straight wins in Queensland alive. It was ugly at times but Craig Bellamy won’t be too concerned. Every two competition points at Origin time can be like gold at season end.
Three points: Brandon Smith had a hand in two of the Storm tries and his work rate was second to none. Smith has the great quality of being able to do something special for his team exactly when they need it.
Two points: Jarrod Wallace was massive for the Titans. Apart from his customary hit-ups and offloads, Wallace also looked good in a second receiver role.
One point: Jahrome Hughes made the break leading to Melbourne’s first try and was the focal point of the Storm’s attack all night.