Melbourne Storm have triumphed in a free-flowing contest at Sunshine Coast Stadium tonight, running in nine tries to four over Wests Tigers to claim a comfortable 50-22 victory.
With close to 70% percent possession for the entirety of the first half, the Storm opened the scoring after four minutes and didn't look back — running in seven first half tries and causing havoc for Wests Tigers on both sides of the field.
It was a tough opening 40 minutes for the visitors, who lost Sam McIntyre, Russell Packer and Matt Eisenhuth for head assessments and Luke Garner to the sin bin.
Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr both bagged first half doubles as Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes pulled the strings on the respective edges. Nicho Hynes added a number of classy touches from fullback and bagged a four-pointer himself as Melbourne threatened to outpace the clock early in the contest.
2020 Match Highlights: Rd.19, Storm vs. Wests Tigers
When they did manage to get in good field position, there was no denying the attacking class of Wests Tigers — Benji Marshall and Asu Kepaoa combining for an acrobatic sideline effort while Josh Aloiai proved too strong from close range to bag his fourth try of the year and momentarily cut the margin to 16-10.
But, as in recent weeks, it was defensive lapses and a lack of patience with the ball that hamstrung Michael Maguire's men.
An intercept in the set immediately after scoring led to Hynes crossing, while a lack of communication saw Hughes bag a four-pointer himself.
Those moments of frustration were summed up in the final moments of the first-half as Wests Tigers — with Garner in the sin bin — allowed a kick to bounce in to the hands of Addo-Carr, who turned five defenders inside out to score his second and give the home side a commanding 22-point lead at the break.
Needing to score first after half-time if they were any hope of a comeback, Wests Tigers squandered a golden chance when Kepaoa spilled a Harry Grant grubber with the try-line at his mercy — only for the winger to get a do-over moments later and this time touch down off the back of a Marshall cut-out.
Adam Doueihi continued his good form with the goal-kicking boots to slot the extras from the sideline, before pushing up on the middle himself to bag his fourth try in five matches — cutting Melbourne's lead in half in the process.
Having lost Vunivalu (hamstring) and with Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Kenny Bromwich both off for concussion tests Craig Bellamy's men needed to steady the ship with the visitors threatening a to produce another stunning comeback.
And, much as they did throughout the first half, they would. Wests Tigers were unable to back up their attacking exploits with resilience in defence with Felise Kaufusi waltzing through the line with ease to send Justin Olam over untouched, before Cameron Smith scored a scrappy try late to restore the Storm's 20-point lead.
Doueihi caps off set-piece special
Despite a gallant second half effort for Wests Tigers, the points would continue to flow for the home side as Smith put the icing on the cake with a clever kick in behind the ruck for Tino Fa'asuamaleaui to crash over late on.
With Josh Aloiai and David Nofoaluma both nursing potentially serious injuries, it would be a night to forget for the visitors as they conceded their heaviest points total of the season as Smith's conversion ensured Melbourne reached the half century.
Match: Storm v Wests Tigers
Round 19 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
The victory would be the Storm's sixth win in a row at the Sunshine Coast Stadium — maintaining their perfect record at the venue this year — and would secure a top-two spot for the finals season ahead, while Wests Tigers dropped behind the Gold Coast Titans on the ladder to fall to 10th position on the ladder.
Press Conference: NRL Round 19
Maguire's men will look to end their regular season on a winning note when they take on the Parramatta Eels at Bankwest Stadium next Saturday in a game that will feature as the final game in Wests Tigers colours for departing legends Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence.
Melbourne Storm 50 (Addo-Carr 2, Vunivalu 2, Hynes, Hughes, Olam, Smith, Fa'asuamaleaui tries; Smith 6/8 goals) def. Wests Tigers 22 (Kepaoa 2, Aloiai, Doueihi tries; Doueihi 3/4 goals) at Sunshine Coast Stadium