TWL FINALS WRAP: STORM PIP RABBITS IN MATCH FOR THE AGES

The Storm and Rabbitohs got the post-season underway with a match for the ages, featuring 10 tries, a stack of lead changes and an unforgettable field goal.

THE MATCH: After the tightest top-eight finish in history, the 2018 finals series began in kind with one of the most phenomenal post-season clashes of NRL era at AAMI Park.

Melbourne edged out South Sydney 29-28 courtesy of a wobbly 77th-minute field goal to Cameron Munster, having twice clawed back to level the scores inside the last 15 minutes.

The Rabbitohs had the early running and opened the scoring through Dane Gagai after eight minutes, but the Storm responded with a Curtis Scott try in the 23rd minute.

Suliasi Vunivalu went from hero to villain and back again during a frantic last nine minutes of the first half.

The giant Fijian winger put the Storm in front for the first time after brilliant work by Billy Slater, but inexplicably failed to play to the whistle as opposite number Robert Jennings popped a miracle ball for Greg Inglis to muscle over.

Vunivalu atoned just before the halftime siren, latching onto a sensational Brodie Croft kick after the halfback made a searing break on his own 20-metre line.

Ahead 16-12 at the break, the hosts could only add a penalty during George Burgess’ stint in the sin-bin, and soon after the big prop’s return Inglis magnificently outleaped Vunivalu to level the scores.

Souths reclaimed the lead with 18 minutes left as a well-worked left-side shift sent Jennings over for his 19th try of the year, but Cheyse Blair crashed over just four minutes later to again square up at 22-all.

A highly dubious forward-pass call against Josh Addo-Carr presented the Rabbitohs with a gift-wrapped chance, which Cameron Murray took by bumping off Joe Stimson to score. But Addo-Carr engineered a breath-taking try for Blair with a centring kick as the Storm again replied almost immediately in a movement than covered 60 metres.

The left boot of Munster, who sent Slater on a break to put the Storm in field goal position, proved the difference as the Melbourne crowd erupted, a preliminary final berth safely in their club’s keeping.

The Rabbitohs will now face the winner of the Broncos-Dragons clash, who will be confronted with a bristling Sam Burgess. The inspirational Brit had a forgettable night against the Storm, making four vital errors.

The Storm will be the Warriors’ preliminary final opponent if they can eliminate the Panthers and the loser of the Roosters-Sharks showdown.

THE MAN: Quietish for much of the match, Cameron Munster stood up when the chips were down. He had a key hand in Melbourne two late equalisers, produced an excellent piece of play to get the Storm in good field position and stepped up to nail the decisive field. The most valuable No.6 in the game by far.

THE MOMENT: Munster’s field goal won it, but the Storm’s 75th-minute try to level the scores was a finals classic. Cameron Smith, Kenny Bromwich and Munster swung the ball wide, before exquisite quick hands from Slater created the chance. Blair’s work was slick before chasing through to collect the quite brilliant banana kick from Addo-Carr.

Melbourne Storm 29 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Cheyse Blair 2, Curtis Scott tries; Cameron Smith 4 goals; Cameron Munster field goal) d South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Greg Inglis 2, Dane Gagai, Robert Jennings, Cameron Murray tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals) at AAMI Park.

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