Media Reports from game

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.

Wests Tigers stun Melbourne Storm in Billy Slater’s 300th
By Roy Ward 17 March 2018 — 9:46pm

It was Billy Slater’s big night, but the Wests Tigers stole the show with a stunning late 10-8 win. The Storm legend ran out for game No.300 but from early on the home side looked out of sorts, especially at the attacking end, while the Tigers were always in the fight as they repeated the courageous effort which saw them upset Sydney Roosters last round. A record crowd of 18,189 for Storm’s first home game was the one positive from Saturday night.

The Tigers led 4-0 at half-time and 6-0 just before the hour mark, then lost their lead to a Slater-inspired try from Suliasi Vunivalu and a penalty kick from Cameron Smith. But with three minutes to play forward Ben Matulino set-up halfback Luke Brooks who scored on the left side and gave his side a second straight win to start the season. Storm coach Craig Bellamy was disappointed his side was so inconsistent and couldn’t produce a win in Slater and Kenny Bromwich’s milestone games. “We need to be better than that for a guy who has played 300 games for our club, and another guy who has played 100 games. The lack of intent in starting the game - that isn’t good enough,” Bellamy said.

Tigers coach Ivan Cleary praised his team’s defence and their resilience in the second half, especially after Matulino was given 10 minutes in the sin bin. “I thought we deserved to win,” Cleary said. “It was obviously a tight game but up until the sin bin we were controlling the second half. “The first half was a good struggle for both teams, not much given by both teams but the sin bin changed everything. Luckily enough, the boys hung in there and got up to have a crack at the end.”
Slater was the centre of attention before kick-off as he was introduced ahead of the side, greeted by his family and then joined by his teammates.

But that may have been the only thing that went to plan in the first 40 minutes as the Storm couldn’t find a way to pierce the Tigers’ defence nor overcome a series of small errors and penalties which seemed to stop any decent attacks. Eight Storm errors was a count well beyond their usual number. It wasn’t like the Tigers were overly convincing in attack either although Benji Marshall continued his orange resurgence making some impressive runs or passes to probe the edge of the home defensive line. Cameron Munster had the best chance to put the Storm ahead when he made a delicate kick which was deflected into the in-goal, with Munster making a spirited chase, but Tigers fullback Corey Thompson managed to touch the ball down just before Munster got to it.

A total of 16 penalties between the two sides showed how unfortunate the discipline was along with some poor play the balls but two untimely penalties in the shadow of half-time presented outside back Esan Marsters with two chances to kick penalty goals and he converted both to put the Tigers up 4-0 at the break. Things didn’t get better for the Storm after half-time as the Tigers defence held true and they continued to remain a small target using up their sets sensibly. Another Storm penalty on their defensive try line gave the Tigers the chance to kick again and extend their lead to 6-0 with 25 minutes to play. Then Storm captain Smith produced a confounding kick-off which fell short and bounced backwards in the Storm’s favour as Joe Stimson caught it well inside the Tigers’ half. That gave the crowd and the Storm a boost and Slater ran onto the left edge and looked poised to set up a try but his pass hit Josh Addo-Carr’s hands and then fell to the turf.

Eventually the Tigers’ resistance gave in as Tigers prop Ben Matulino was given a yellow card for a professional foul and then Slater came onto the right edge and set up Vunivalu for a try on the corner on 64 minutes, Smith’s conversion went wide leaving it 6-4 to the Tigers. A slow-to-release penalty on the Tigers soon after gave Smith a reprieve and he converted the kick to tie scores at 6-6 with 11 minutes left. With the Tigers’ defence tiring the Storm again drew a penalty and it was right in front of goal so Smith tapped it over for an 8-6 lead. Addo-Carr looked to have sealed the win with a corner try but his 75th-minute effort was ruled out due to a forward pass. A stunning dropped ball from Vunivalu gave the Tigers a late chance at victory and wide-man Malaki Watene-Zelezniak almost got his hands to a grubber kick but was thwarted by Vunivalu. Brooks’ try proved the decider although the missed conversion made for a nervy finish. The Storm had one last chance but were held up at the line and then made a knock-on leaving the Tigers celebrating.
The Storm host North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park on Thursday at 7.50pm.

Wests Tigers claim second big scalp as Storm crack under the pressure
March 17, 2018 8:10pm
Tony Webeck

THE Wests Tigers claimed a second massive scalp in the space of two weeks and in the process proved to the entire NRL that the Melbourne Storm aren’t the same team without Cooper Cronk.

On a night that was built around the celebration of Billy Slater’s 300th game for the Storm the Tigers were the ultimate party poopers, displaying the same defensive intent they employed against the Roosters and using it as the cornerstone of a second straight 10-8 win to start 2018.

The match was a stalemate until the 38th minute when Tigers centre Esan Marsters converted the first of his three penalty goals and there wasn’t a try scored until Melbourne took advantage of a 12-man Tigers defensive line to cross in the 64th minute.

The sin-binning of prop Ben Matulino for a professional foul saw a six-point Tigers advantage become an 8-6 Storm lead and even after he returned with six minutes to play it seemed destined that the score would stay that way.

But Matulino provided the spark with an offload as he crashed into the Storm’s goal line defence and halfback Luke Brooks took the pass on the first bounce to crash over two minutes from full-time and clinch an extraordinary victory.

Conceding an incredible 18 penalties — including a 9-1 count against them in the second half — the Tigers also elicited 17 errors out of Melbourne, the most they have conceded in a game since 2012.

As they grow accustomed to life without Cooper Cronk, rejuvenated Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall says it was a premeditated plan to put the Storm playmakers under pressure, and it worked a treat.

“Without Cooper Cronk they’re a very different team,” Marshall told Fox Sports.

“I know Brodie Croft’s a great young player but they’ve had Cooper steering the ship for a long time so we wanted to try and put them under a little bit of pressure like they do to other teams.

“Obviously an up-and-in defence was a bit of that plan.

“When we felt a bit vulnerable we would come out of the line and I thought we made a few good decisions and it really helped, putting them under the pump and forcing errors was big for us.”

The Storm pride themselves on performing well in milestone matches and former Melbourne half Brett Finch admitted that the pressure applied by the Tigers for the entire 80 minutes forced the Storm into a very uncharacteristic performance.

“The way they lost it was very uncharacteristic, the amount of errors. It’s been a long time since they’ve made 17 errors,” Finch said on Fox League.

“They look like they tried to make the easy play or score the easy try and they just weren’t willing to get into the grind long enough. (Storm coach) Craig Bellamy will be pretty disappointed with that.

“The way they went about it will disappoint them.

“Plenty of errors and plenty of missed tackles. That’s very un-Melbourne Storm like.”


After the emotion of Slater’s 300-game milestone died down the Wests Tigers picked up where they left off against the Roosters with a dominant defensive effort in the opening exchanges.

For the first time in 18 months the Storm were kept scoreless in the opening 40 minutes as a pair of Esan Marsters penalty goals gave the visitors a four-point buffer at the break.

It wasn’t until the 38th minute that first points were scored as the Tigers restricted the star-studded Storm side and forced them into error, the most noticeable coming at the back involving Slater and winger Suliasi Vunivalu.

At the conclusion of a week that was a seven-day Slater celebration the champion custodian didn’t contest the first two bombs that came his way, the second of which almost led directly to a Wests Tigers try.

When the Tigers finally did post points it was on the back of a Slater mistake after Vunivalu got in the way, their miscommunication an alarming lowlight of Melbourne’s first half performance that continued into the second.

Cameron Munster did go close to registering the game’s first try in the 35th minute when he pounced on a loose ball in the Tigers in-goal but a quick review by the bunker confirmed the claim of Tigers fullback Corey Thompson that he had got a hand to it first.

Further Tigers pressure led to a third penalty goal and a 6-0 lead in the 57th minute before the Storm received back-to-back penalties and Matulino’s sin-binning left the Tigers a man down with 16 minutes left to play.

Vunivalu’s lone highlight came in the right-hand corner courtesy of a Slater cutout pass and two Cameron Smith penalty goals saw the home side hit the front for the first time with eight minutes left to play.

They would have gone further ahead had a pass in the lead-up to a possible Josh Addo-Carr not been called forward, opening the door for the Tigers to launch an audacious late bid for victory that came to fruition for the second week running.

Wests Tigers 10 (Luke Brooks try, Esan Marsters 3 goals) def. Melbourne Storm 8 (Suliasi Vunivalu try; Cameron Smith 2 goals) at AAMI Park.

Paul Kent on MMM: "I think if we could resubmit our top 8’s most people would now include the Tigers.”
At last- someone willing to acknowledge we might be the real deal!!

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