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There was no hiding the disappointment nor the pride from Wests Tigers Coach Michael Maguire after his side's devastating 24-22 loss to the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night.
For 77 minutes, Maguire's side led — and to be fair, dominated — the Melbourne juggernaut with a wonderfully controlled performance in attack that could easily have yielded more points were it not for some scrambling Storm defence.
Wests Tigers looked to have done enough to secure their sixth win of the year and their third straight win over the Storm, before a late Will Chambers try stole the two points back for the home side and left the visitors empty-handed on the night.
While still visibly feeling the unbelievably disappointing defeat, Maguire couldn't shy away from the positive in his side in regards to their growth this year.
"I thought our boys did enough up to the 77th minute mark," Maguire reflected.
"Having scored 22 points and defending them the way that we were, I thought it was strong enough to get there in the end but unfortunately it wasn't.
"We put ourselves in to that situation through various things that we did.
“It’s a disappointing one for the boys — I’ve got a change room that has a lot of hurt in it and we’ve got to make sure we grow out of that game.”
A far cry from his side's past two defeats to the Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters, Maguire could see the progress in his side having produced a mature performance to control the action for almost the entirety of the game.
"This group is definitely growing and they're growing quick," he said.
"To come down here and get to 22 points... we just had a couple of defensive lapses that cost us in the end and that's the key for us moving forward.
"This group have been working really hard to play that game — the style that wins big games — and we came up against a team that's been doing it for a long time.
"We have to move in to that space quickly because that's where we want to be.
"Now it's about us taking as much out of it as we can and taking it to the next one."
That next one for Wests Tigers is a mouthwatering clash against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium next Saturday — a crucial clash for the side looking to stay in touch with the top eight and build on their progress made so far this year.
With games against the top-four Rabbitohs, Raiders and Roosters all coming up on the schedule in the next six weeks, Maguire said his side weren't at all daunted by the prospect, and emphasised the performance shown tonight as proof.
2019 Match Highlights: Rd.10, Storm vs. Wests Tigers
"I think it's in this group — it's definitely there," he enthused.
"We had that game and then, all of a sudden, we allowed Melbourne to climb their way back in to it. There were key moments that swung the momentum and the Melbourne Storm are a team that have captured that quite some time.
“There are a lot of positives out of this game and for my boys. They played some really good footy... we scored 22 points and more often than not if you’re scoring those points, you'll win but you've got to make sure you defend it."
"Again, we just have to make sure that we nail it."
Veterans Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall were again standouts for the visitors tonight, while Luke Brooks continued his stellar form to start the year with his 33rd career try and 113 running metres. Prop Alex Twal topped the charts with an impressive 159 metres from his 16 carries, while Josh Aloiai was also strong in limited minutes with 85 metres and his second career try against the Storm.
Match: Storm v Wests Tigers
Round 10 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne