SYDNEY - A pre-game pep talk from rugby league Immortal Arthur Beetson inspired one of the greatest defensive displays in Wests Tigers' 10-year NRL existence as they held out Melbourne in a stunning 16-6 upset win at Leichhardt Oval last night.
Despite running with the aid of a strong breeze over the second half, Melbourne were held scoreless as their dysfunctional attacking unit failed to click, their nightmare finally over when Chris Lawrence ran 70 metres for his second try of the night off a brilliant Benji Marshall set-up in the final minute.
But it was in the sheds before the game that the true inspiration for the win was garnered, Beetson - on hand to receive the team of the century blazer he failed to pick up when he snubbed last year's gala ball - giving the Tigers the belief to conquer their more fancied opponents.
"When a guy of Artie Beetson's stature speaks, you tend to listen," Tigers captain Robbie Farah said.
"He came in and told us it's not always (about) the team of champions. You go out there and you work for each other and work for your mate next to you.
"A name on a piece of paper doesn't really matter.
"We did that tonight. We showed up to tackle and when times got tough we worked hard.
"In the past we've probably looked to win games by outscoring teams, but it's good to win a game on defence."
Coach Tim Sheens refused to rank the defensive effort in over past efforts.
"It was good, we're not getting carried away with it but we've been bagged when we haven't tackled well so I'll give credit when we have," he said.
The normally-deadly Storm attack was made to look impotent by a desperate Tigers defence, the visitors paying the price for blowing several gilt-edged opportunities.
Down 10-6 at the break, the Storm looked like they had equalised in the 62nd minute when youngster James Maloney found an unmarked Anthony Quinn on the left flank, the groans of resignation from the crowd turning to cheers of joy as referee Shayne Hayne called the play back for a forward pass.
Melbourne's best opportunity actually came from five metres out from their own line in the 50th minute when Quinn grabbed an intercept, the NSW Origin winger ignoring a galloping Greg Inglis in support with the defensive line scrambling.
"We had a lot of chances and we didn't take them," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
"Our guys tried really hard but things ain't quite clicking for us at the moment with the footy.
"We've got no excuses. We've been working hard at it and it still ain't coming along."
The Tigers went behind early after Inglis showed a glimpse of his best to set up a Ryan Hoffman try, the four-pointer coming against the run of play after the home side had three consecutive sets on the Storm line early in the game.
The Tigers answered back two minutes later when Tim Moltzen touched down on a Robbie Farah grubber, Adam Blair paying the price for turning over possession from the restart.
A spiralling Marshall bomb saw Billy Slater get trapped in his own in goal just before the half hour, Marshall doing even better in the ensuing set as he put Lawrence through a hole for the Tigers' second try.