STORM START POST-SLATER ERA IN STYLE

Any notion that the Melbourne Storm may not be there when the whips are cracking this September went straight out the window with a clinical 22-12 defeat of the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL’s season opener. The result extended the club’s perfect Round 1 record under Craig Bellamy to 17-0.

The Storm rocketed to a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes. Fullback Jahrome Hughes began the post-Billy Slater era in dream style with the opening try of season 2019, before Curtis Scott pounced on a Jack Bird error and sprinted 50 metres to dot down untouched.

In between the dual  strikes, the Broncos lost NSW centre James Roberts to injury. But they had the luxury of bringing teenage gun Kotoni Staggs off the bench and – despite a thoroughly disjointed first-half display with the ball in hand – the visitors managed to get to halftime without  incurring any further scoreboard damage.

Cameron Munster put Kenny Bromwich through a gaping hole to break a lengthy impasse seven minutes after the resumption. But after the Storm narrowly missed out landing a knockout blow, the Broncos surged back into the contest with two Corey Oates tries in the space of three minutes – the second a 40-metre intercept of an ill-advised Jesse Bromwich pass.

Big Jessie atoned with 12 minutes left, however, taking another slick Munster pass and scoring a 25-metre try with neat footwork, a dummy and a nice turn of pace.

Hughes staked a claim for long-term possession of the Storm’s No.1 jumper with a superb all-round display, while Munster, Cameron Smith, Felise Kaufusi and Christian Welch were all first-rate for the victors. Big men Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Tui Kamikamica overshadowed the Broncos’ ultra-hyped forward tyros.

Maligned Broncos halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima did little to quell their critics, struggling to give their side direction and kicking poorly. Tevita Pangai Jr came off the bench to top the Broncos’ run tallies, while Oates joined Hughes as the only players to run for over 200 metres.

There’s no reason for premature panic at Red Hill – the Broncos lacked cohesion but showed heart, and it’s worth remembering South Sydney took time to adjust to Anthony Seibold’s style and structures 12 months ago.

Matt Lodge likely booked himself an early-season holiday with an ugly challenge on Melbourne kicker Munster at the end of the game’s initial set – an area the NRL has vowed to crack down on.

Melbourne Storm 22 (Jahrome Huhges, Curtis Scott, Kenny Bromwich, Jesse Bromwich tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals) defeated Brisbane Broncos 12 (Corey Oates 2 tries; Jamayne Isaako 2 goals) at AAMI Park.

 

 

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