Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Melbourne Storm fend off New Zealand Warriors in tight tussle

Storm 20 Warriors 14
Kieran Foran attempts to tackle Josh Addo-Carr. Photo / Photosport
Kieran Foran attempts to tackle Josh Addo-Carr. Photo / Photosport

The Warriors remain a work in progress.

They are making progress - but there is still plenty of work to be done.

The Warriors came close to getting a dividend from one of the toughest assignments in the NRL - a road trip to Melbourne - but went down 20-14 to the Storm tonight.

They were impressive for long periods, but ultimately lacked the belief, conviction and game management to achieve an upset win.

This match, like the game against Canberra, demonstrated that the Warriors can compete with the top sides in the NRL, but yet again they came up short.

They got the wobbles in the final quarter and never put enough scoreboard distance on the Storm to withstand Melbourne's typically strong finish.

But at least, unlike last year's Anzac Day clash, which was a massive anti-climax, this match lived up to the hype. It brought back memories of some of the vintage clashes between these teams over the last two decades, with some fantastic attack and gritty defence.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was outstanding - again - as he seemed to cover every blade of grass on AAMI Park while Shaun Johnson came up with some trademark mazy runs. Kieran Foran was solid - and made two crucial try saving tackles while prop James Gavet underlined his status as the most improved Warriors player this season. He consistently made ground with the ball, and made an improbable basketball style grab of one Storm bomb.

The Warriors were, for a long time, the Storm's bogey team, able to upset the odds regardless of their respective positions on the table. But that feeling had dissipated over the last few years, as the Victorian side had won six of the previous nine clashes, including the infamous 42-0 battering last year.

It returned tonight, as the Warriors matched up well for long periods, but lacked vital polish in the key moments, especially in the final 15 minutes.

The Storm remain extremely difficult opponents; not just for their undoubted skills and ability, but for their mastery of the dark arts. The Storm pioneered the current wrestling emphasis in the NRL and got away with plenty in the ruck again tonight.

Ben Matulino made his long awaited return for the Warriors, coming onto the interchange bench in place of Charlie Gubb.

For the second consecutive week the Warriors made a bright start. Foran and Johnson were combining well in the halves - with Foran taking the lead at first receiver - and the defensive intensity were evident from the outset.

They were rewarded with the opening try, David Fusitua flashing over after Blake Ayshford dragged in two defenders. The try was a product of incessant pressure, as the Melbourne side got a taste of their own medicine.

The Storm responded, with Nelson Asofa-Solomona - surely the biggest man in the world of league - taking three defenders across the line from short range.

The second half continued a cut and thrust pattern. Fusitua's second try came off probably the best Warriors set move of the season, as Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck linked at lightning speed to set the winger free.

The Storm replied almost immediately, with Will Chambers busting through the Warriors left edge from long range before Cooper Cronk finished off. A Johnson penalty - after the Warriors eschewed a quick tap - took the visitors ahead, before two late Storm tries sealed the result.

Storm 20 (N Asofa-Solomona, C Cronk, J Addo-Carr, F Kaufusi tries; C Smith 2 goals)
Warriors 14 (D Fusitua 2 tries; S Johnson 3 goals)
Halftime: 8-8

- NZ Herald

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