Despite an impressive first half, Wests Tigers have gone down 22-14 to the Melbourne Storm in sunny conditions at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Leading 14-0 shortly before the half-time interval, a crucial no try call against David Nofoaluma just before the break followed by a call in favour of Nelson Asofa-Solomona allowed the Storm back into the contest, before the visitors showed resilience in defence throughout the second half to soak up pressure and emerge with an eight-point win.
Dominating the Storm defensive line early with several repeat sets, it was an inspired effort from Mitchell Moses that eventually cracked the visitors after 12 minutes — wrestling away from several attempted tacklers before crashing over out wide.
The five-eighth was unable to convert his own try, however, leaving the score at 4-0.
Wests Tigers almost extended their lead shortly after when Matt McIlwrick found space from dummy half, linking up with Luke Brooks down field before a penalty was found against the Storm for pulling back Kevin Naiqama in the lead-up.
Moses duly added the penalty goal from close range to take the score to 6-0.
After a second penalty in the ruck against the Storm, Moses showed no hesitation to push Wests Tigers’ lead out to eight points with another goal after 23 minutes.
And after a strong return from James Tedesco to put the home side in great field position, it would be Elijah Taylor — back in the team this week after missing Round 3 due to family reasons — who crashed over next to the posts of a good ball from Brooks.
Moses’ conversion from in front took Wests Tigers’ lead out to 14-0 after 30 minutes.
Nofoaluma looked to have extended the home side’s advantage when he went straight through off a scrum play three minutes before the break, but his effort was overturned by the Bunker following an obstruction call on Sauaso Sue.
That would prove costly for Wests Tigers who, after losing Joel Edwards to a big shot that was surprisingly not called high, conceded their first points of the game as Asofa-Solomona scooped up the loose ball to dive over under the black dot.
Cameron Smith added the extras from close range to make it 14-6 at the break.
After almost conceding early in the second half, Melbourne would hit back again in the 49th minute after gaining great field position from a Smith 40-20 kick. Clicking into gear on the right edge, it would be Young Tonumaipea who finished off the move for his first try of the day, with Smith’s missed conversion leaving the score at 14-10.
Top of the table after three rounds for a reason, Melbourne would take the lead in the 56 minute when centre Cheyse Blair took advantage of a gap in the defence to run the better part of 80 metres — allowing Smith to convert from in front for a 16-14 lead.
As the match hung in the balance, Wests Tigers were forced to just two men on the bench as Edwards (concussion) and Brooks (hamstring) were both ruled out.
Wests Tigers would do their best to fight back in the contest, but it was a try against the run of play for winger Josh Addo-Carr that ultimately proved the difference for the Storm — racing away to ensure an eight-point buffer with 15 minutes remaining.
Melbourne Storm 22 (Asofa-Solomona, Tonumapiea, Blair, Addo-Carr tries; Smith 3/4 goals) def. Wests Tigers 14 (Moses, Taylor tries; Moses 4/4 goals)