Old rivals turn it on as Melbourne sneak home
MELBOURNE rested their five State of Origin stars but it doesn't matter when they've got arguably the greatest representative player in rugby league history.
Former Kangaroos and Maroons skipper Cameron Smith was at his finest at Brookvale on Saturday night, steering the Storm to an impressive come-from-behind victory over archrivals Manly.
The Sea Eagles were celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 40-0 demolition of Melbourne in the 2008 grand final, but it was the man that missed that decider through suspension that came back to haunt them.
Smith expertly controlled proceedings, made a game-high 38 tackles and kicked three goals - including the match-winning penalty goal with nine minutes remaining.
The Storm were controversially awarded a penalty for off-side but Manly coach Trent Barrett believes it was the wrong call.
Barrett thought it was an accidental off-side, which is a scrum, and said he would contract referee's boss Bernard Sutton this week for answers.
"I need to get clarification," Barrett fired.
"It is an accidental off-side, but that is not a penalty with nine minutes to go.
"It came off Hodkinson's head. It is an accidental off-side and a scrum.
"There was also the dubious pass for their first try, the strip on Matty Wright.
"There are a few and that is hard to take because our effort and attitude was great.
"I will be having a good look and asking a few questions about some of the calls that went against us.
"I thought we were the better team to be honest."
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy was also confused by the off-side call that decided the match.
Told Barrett thought it was an accidental off-side and a scrum, he replied:
"One of our guys up in the box thought that as well.
"I think accidental off-side is a scrum, but again I'm not sure if it came of Suli (Vunivalu) or them first.
"It might have been the wrong call or it might have been the right call, I don't really know that one.
"We'll just let the refs deal with that one, but it was a pretty big call for us obviously."
Despite the questionable calls, the Storm deserves praise for fighting back from a deficit.
They trailed 12-0 in the first-half and 13-6 at the break, but they refused to give in and stormed home to record a remarkable win.
Smith was outstanding, but he wasn't alone for the Storm.
Jahrome Hughes delivered a strong display at fullback filling in for the rested Billy Slater, while halfback Brodie Croft stepped up in the halves in the absence of Queensland playmaker Cameron Munster.
Croft scored a crucial try in the second half, while he looked dangerous every time he ran the football.
The Storm lapped up one the club's most courageous victories, but Manly walked away bitterly disappointed after dominating the game for large portions.
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans backed up his finest Origin performance with a classy effort.
Fellow Origin representatives Tom and Jake Trbojevic were also solid, but it was Manly's big men that excelled.
New Zealand prop Martin Taupau terrorised Melbourne with a whopping 249 running metres, while fellow bookend Addin Fonua-Blake was also strong.
In the end, though, it meant little has Melbourne claimed the victory spoils on what was supposed to be a memorable night for Manly.
MELBOURNE 14 (B Croft S Vunivalu tries C Smith 3 goals) bt MANLY 13 (S Lane 2 tries D Cherry-Evans 2 goals D Cherry-Evans field goal) at Lottoland. Referee: Gavin Reynolds, Chris Sutton. Crowd: 9,277