Tigers pull off stunning Storm upset in Slater’s 300th
Author Andrew Marmont Timestamp Sat 17 Mar 2018, 09:27 PM
A stubborn Wests Tigers ruined Billy Slater’s 300th game in the NRL, stunning Melbourne 10-8 at AAMI Park.
In a match full of drama that featured plenty of errors by both sides, the Ivan Cleary-coached side prevailed after Ben Matulino’s pass found Luke Brooks who dived to score the match-winner and shock a disbelieving bumper Melbourne crowd.
Led by veteran half Benji Marshall, whose organisational skills and intelligent kicking constantly tested the Storm’s back three, the visitors stepped up again to prove last week’s round one win against the Sydney Roosters wasn’t a fluke.
On a warm and breezy Melbourne night, the Tigers and Storm played out a good old-fashioned arm wrestle as both teams struggled to assert any dominance until the last 20 minutes.
The Tigers refused to get overawed by the Storm’s monster pack and led by Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Elijah Taylor dominated the early exchanges.
The Storm were kept scoreless in the first half and racked up 16 errors as the Tigers relished the opportunity to spoil Slater’s party.
Melbourne looked like they’d score early after battering the Tigers with three consecutive sets, but the visitors scrambled to put Cameron Munster into touch.
Slater tried to inject himself early through dummy half but couldn’t find space or time to weave his magic.
Esan Marsters added two penalty goals in the shades of half-time to take a surprise 4-0 lead going into oranges.
It didn’t get any better for Melbourne after half-time, as the Tigers continued to apply the pressure on the Melbourne attacking line.
Marsters added another penalty with just over 20 minutes to play and extend their lead to 6-0.
Slater looked certain to contribute to their first try shortly afterwards after the Storm were awarded a penalty inside the Tigers’ 10-metre line, but winger Josh Addo-Carr fumbled his pass.
It was panic stations for the visitors as Ben Matulino was sin-binned for a professional foul – after stopping a quick tap by Munster – and it proved costly.
The Storm took 65 minutes to post their first points but they grabbed a stylish four-pointer.
Suliasi Vunivalu had a mixed night in attack and coughed up a couple of errors, but redeemed himself to score a diving try in the corner off a pinpoint Slater pass.
The vocal crowd could sense a grandstand finish with the score locked up and 10 to play.
Enter Sam Kasiano, whose charging runs off the bench surprised the Tigers and allowed the Storm to get cheap metres.
Smith added a further penalty goal from right in front and get the lead for the first time in the 72nd minute.
Melbourne looked likely to provide the killer blow shortly afterwards but Curtis Scott’s final pass for Addo-Carr was forward.
The Tigers refused to give in and forced a goal line drop out after Vunivalu fluffed a grubber kick, before some last-ditch magic by Matulino and Brooks allowed the Tigers to snatch an unlikely win.