Melbourne came back from a 0-18 deficit to beat the Warriors 30-18 in Saturday night’s NRL trial on the Sunshine Coast.
The Warriors put together a three-try first half effort with their best combination on the field, the Storm’s only points coming right on halftime as they went to the break 6-18 down.
The tone of the contest changed dramatically in the second spell when head coach Stephen Kearney changed out every one of his available experienced players except Tuimoala Lolohea.
Making his comeback from injury, new captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was impressive but Kearney didn’t use him in the second half; likewise Ryan Hoffman, Solomone Kata, Shaun Johnson, David Fusitu’a and Albert Vete.
With a vastly rearranged combination the Warriors wanted for cohesion and eventually the Storm took advantage scoring three tries inside the last eight minutes and 28 unanswered points in all from the end of the first half.
While the opening stanza was sloppy with errors on both sides, there was much to like about the Warriors’ defence for much of the match and especially in the opening 40 minutes when they had their best line-up on the field.
They also created two try-scoring moments in the first 20 minutes, right wing Lolohea with the first converted by Mason Lino. Then, right on the break for drinks, second rower Bunty Afoa was sent in with Lino’s conversion making it 12-0.
It didn’t take long for the Warriors, making good ground up the middle, to have the Storm back under pressure as the second quarter began.
Johnson pumped the ball high in front of the posts and in the contest Tuivasa-Sheck came up with the try. This time the extras were supplied by Ata Hingano for an 18-0 lead.
There the score stayed until close to halftime when repeat sets from an error and a penalty gave the Storm their best chance to strike. Going to their left, Cameron Munster’s great pass put Joe Stimson over.
The Warriors’ defence, generally so solid in the opening half, continued in the same vein for the first 10 minutes of the second half only to lapse on the line allowing hooker Slade Griffin to score. Scott Drinkwater’s conversion closed the margin to 18-12 after 60 minutes.
With eight minutes to play, the Storm were level. Halfback Brodie Croft nudged through a grubber which Jeremy Hawkins was under little pressure to secure, Dylan Kelly’s conversion making the score 18-18.
Minutes later Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s off load created the go-ahead try for Linc Port handing Melbourne had the lead for the first time in the match. The 24-18 advantage became 30-18 in the dying moments with a Young Tonumaipea try.
Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana Waters
Melbourne Storm 30 (Joe Stimson, Slade Griffin, Jeremy Hawkins, Linc Port, Young Tonumaipea tries; Cameron Munster conversion; Scott Drinkwater conversion; Dylan Kelly 3 conversions).
New Zealand Warriors 18 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Bunty Afoa, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions; Ata Hingano conversion).
Halftime: 18-6 New Zealand Warriors.
Referees: Ashley Klein and Ziggy Przeklaski-Adamski.
(Main photo: Bunty Afoa. Credit: photosport.nz).