Storm 28 Warriors 18
Todd Lowrie said Melbourne were scared of the Warriors and the visitors gave the defending champions an almighty fright before succumbing in the final stages of a compelling match.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Warriors, who led 18-16 with eight minutes remaining before Will Chambers scored a spectacular long-range effort. Storm fullback Billy Slater then scored under the posts in the dying stages to give the scoreline a flattering look.
There is no shame in losing to the Storm, especially as Melbourne are on a run of 15 NRL wins and closing on the Roosters' record of 19, but it's difficult to escape the fact the Warriors are stuck in a rut. They sit rooted to the bottom of the ladder, with only one win in seven games, and the only consolation is they have been losing narrowly in recent weeks.
Results need to change quickly or they will be left behind by the pack before the season is halfway through.
They took the game to Melbourne, who seem destined for at least another grand final appearance, but the Storm know how to win games even when under considerable pressure and the Warriors were their own worst enemies in the last few minutes.
It would be terribly easy to say the Warriors were inspired by an emotional Anzac tribute before the match in front of a packed AAMI Park but they needed to win for themselves.
They approached the match with a sound gameplan. They often kicked for touch to slow the game down, nullify the effectiveness of Billy Slater and try to eliminate the Melbourne counter-punch. They also brought an abrasive attitude and got plenty of tacklers around the ball-carrier in an attempt to slow the play-the-ball.
Matt Elliott said they wouldn't beat Melbourne by playing conservatively and they stretched the Storm from time to time as they chucked the ball around.
It also meant the errors mounted. The Warriors completed their first five sets but by halftime their completion rate had dropped to 63 per cent and it didn't improve throughout the rest of the contest.
Thankfully, Melbourne made nearly as many errors. They were very un-Melbourne-like as the ball went to ground or passes missed their mark. They also bombed a couple of tries, with Mahe Fonua dropping one over the line and Billy Slater ignoring his support.
The Warriors matched Melbourne in nearly every department and went to the break level 10-10.
They opened the scoring when Ben Henry touched down in the seventh minute as he gathered a bomb to the corner but Melbourne struck back almost immediately as Chambers slipped through an attempted tackle by Jerome Ropati and dummied his way over.
Melbourne hit the lead on the half hour when Fonau crossed. It came a couple of plays after Ngani Laumape spilled a bomb in a costly error but the Warriors struck right on halftime through Bill Tupou to level the scores.
Shaun Johnson made the initial break, being brought down by a desperate ankle tap, but the Warriors remained patient and spread the ball from side to side before Tupou scored in the corner.
The second half ushered in a messy phase as both sides spilled the ball, and the Warriors were lucky to keep their line intact, before the tit-for-tat nature of the game continued. Johnson scored an intercept try but Melbourne struck back quickly as Sisa Waqa beat a ponderous Kevin Locke to a Cooper Cronk grubber.
Johnson landed a penalty to give his side an important lead before Melbourne wrestled control of the match.
The Warriors will win games if they play as well as they did tonight but they would take wins by any means at the moment.
Storm 28 (Will Chambers 2, Mahe Fonua, Sisa Waqa, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 4 gls) Warriors 18 (Ben Henry, Bill Tupou, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 3 gls). HT: 10-10.