With both sides losing quite convincingly last weekend, the Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs faced off in a clash full of big-name players at AAMI Park.
With Cameron Murray moving back to the loose-forward, the Rabbitohs were hoping for more direction going forward, but it was the Storm forwards who got off to the better start.
Big carries from Dale Finucane, Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi put Melbourne right on the Souths try line. Despite the early pressure, Alex Johnston caught Jahrome Hughes high kick in the in-goal area for a 20-metre restart.
It didn’t take long for the home side to pick up the first try though, as just a minute later, Hughes and Branko Lee passed the ball quickly onto Sulesi Vunivalu, and with just Mitchell to beat, the winger passed inside to the onrushing Ryan Papenhuyzen who raced away to score.
Souths started to work their way back into the game, and with a forward pass from Hughes inside his own 40-metre line, it gave the visitors the chance to get on the board.
On the fourth tackle, Damien Cook shifted the ball out the Dargan, who popped onto Latrell Mitchell, who quickly threw the ball flat and wide to Alex Johnston who managed to dive over in the corner, and through the tackle of Hughes to score.
An inch-perfect kick from Adam Reynolds from the touchline gave Souths a slender two-point lead after 18 minutes.
The physicality of the game, as well as the speed of the game, was certainly taking its toll on some players. None more than Josh Addo-Carr, who, after copping a huge hit from Liam Knight was visibly struggling with a rib injury.
With the new set-restart rule, Damien Cook struggled to get into the game last week against the Roosters but his quick thinking was putting the Rabbitohs on the front foot.
Melbourne were under pressure when Souths started a set of six, on the 10-metre line, but Mark Nicholls let the Storm off the hook after he dropped a simple pass on tackle one.
Further uncharacteristic errors from the likes of Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes meant Melbourne struggled to get a grip of the game, but the same could be said for Souths, with dropped balls from Ethan Lowe and Mitchell allowing the Storm to attack from inside the Rabbitohs half.
Just under seven minutes were on the clock when Cameron Munster made a wonderful break from his own 30-metre line, and after a 40-metre run, he found Hughes, who’s early kick bounced perfectly over the top of Johnston into the hands of Vunivalu for the try.
With Cameron Smith failing to convert from the touchline, the score remained 8-6 to Melbourne with five minutes remaining until the break.
After Jayden Su’a made a huge tackle it left the Rabbitohs down to 12 in the defensive line after the forward picked up a knock, but fortunately for the big second-rower and his side, the Storm, once again, failed to compose themselves in attack and dropped the ball.
The Storm would have the ball in the final seconds of the half though, and Cameron Smith’s grubber kicked looked to be perfect for Finucane to dive on top of. However, Damien Cook got their force to knock the ball away.
HALF-TIME: Melbourne Storm 8-6 South Sydney Rabbitohs
The back and forth between the two teams continued, but it was the Storm who were on top in terms of territory.
Jahrome Hughes managed to cross for Storm, after cutting across the grain and straight through the defensive line to score what looked like a clear try.
Luckily for the Rabbitohs, Tino Faasuamaleuai was deemed to have stop in the defensive line and stop Damien Cook from making a tackle and try was scrubbed off.
With South Sydney giving Melbourne plenty of opportunities to score, it looked as though the game could slip away from the visitors. However, the Storm were struggling to compose themselves once again despite having plenty of time on the ball.
With Wayne Bennett’s side down by two points, Liam Knight was stripped of the ball with two men in the tackle, they decided to level the scores from the boot of Adam Reynolds.
Latrell Mitchell was impressing from full-back, as was Campbell Graham at right centre, with the pair combining to put Souths just 20-metres from the Storm line.
South’s were close to regaining the lead after Dane Gagai stepped and turned beyond a number of Melbourne defenders, but in his attempt to stretch the ball to the line, the winger dropped the ball which let the Storm off the hook.
With 23 minutes of the game still to go, Ryan Papenhuyzen was tackled off the ball by Junior Tatola, and Melbourne regained the lead thanks to two points from Cameron Smith.
After an hour, both sides were still looking to control the game and make sure they would pick up the two points. However, simple handling errors were releasing any sort of pressure on the defence that had been built up.
With 15 minutes remaining, another Souths error meant that eight of the 11 second-half errors belonged to the visitors.
Melbourne finally punished the Rabbitohs, as Cameron Munster kicked early to the corner for Josh Addo-Carr and The Fox caught the ball under no pressure at all, to extend the lead to six with 13 minutes remaining.
Smith converted to make it 16-8, with plenty of work to do for South Sydney to do.
Souths were determined to keep fighting for the victory though, as a high ball from Reynolds bounced off Papenhuyzen, set the Rabbitohs up just in front of the Melbourne line.
South Sydney did manage to cross the line, as Troy Dargan dummied the ball to pull the Melbourne defence in, and then pushed a pass out to Johnston to score in the corner.
However, Braidon Burns made contact with Jahrome Hughes to stop the half-back from getting across to the winger, and the try was scrubbed off.
With five minutes remaining, another knock-on by Dane Gagai inside his own 20-metre line looked like the final nail in the Rabbitohs coffin.
The Storm then finished off the game in the 78th minute, as Christian Welch and then Munster offloaded out of two tackles, to allow Cameron Smith and Addo-Carr to combine for Justin Olam to pick up his first try in Melbourne colours.
Craig Bellamy’s side found themselves with the ball in the final set of the game, and Chris Lewis, on debut, took the final carry to end the game.
This leaves the Rabbitohs on one win and three losses, as the Storm maintain their perfect record against South Sydney in Melbourne.
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Storm 22-8 South Sydney Rabbitohs
Papenhuyzen, Vunivalu, Olan, Lee, Addo-Carr, Munster, Hughes, J. Bromwich, C. Smith, B. Smith, Kaufusi, K. Bromwich, Finucane.
Interchanges: Welch, Faasuamaleaui, King, Lewis
Tries: Papenhuyzen, Vunivalu, Addo-Carr, Olam
Goals: C. Smith (3/5)
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Mitchell, Gagai, Graham, Burns, Johnston, Dargan, Reynolds, Tatola, Cook, Burgess, Su’a, Murray, Lowe
Interchanges: Knight, Nicholls, Amone, Koloamatangi
Goals: Reynolds (2/2)
Referee: G. Sutton
Touch Judges: T. Smith, P. Henderson
Video Referee: B. Galea