STORM 28 DRAGONS 24
It's been 15 years of torment for St George Illawarra in Melbourne, but none hurt quite like this. Not when you’re 14 points up with as many minutes remaining and get beat with a try scored so long after the siren you’d almost expect the players to be back in the sheds.
But just like the Dragons aren’t expected to win in Canberra, when it comes to Melbourne it’s even more so. And wasn’t this one dramatic.
Young Tonumaipea was the hero, scoring in the left-hand corner after the Storm had barely played the ball on the last tackle before the siren wailed.
It swung from one side of the field to the other and back - had a kick in there too - and eventually landed in the winger’s hands after Ryan Hoffman had dished it off for the most dramatic of wins.
Seemingly coasting at 24-10 with the Storm staring down the barrel of a third straight loss, Craig Bellamy’s miracle workers dug deep when it mattered most to instead leave Steve Price staring into an abyss which includes three defeats on the bounce.
The result might have been justice for the hosts, who would have lamented a glaring video referee decision early in the second half if they’d not won the match 28-24 at AAMI Park on Monday night.
The Dragons hadn’t won in Melbourne since 1999 and much like the only grand final between the sides, this little piece of history wasn’t without a tinge of video referee controversy either.
St George Illawarra seemingly struck a hammer blow early in the second half when Trent Merrin dived over from a Sisa Waqa clanger as the winger attempted to haul in a Michael Witt bomb.
Replays indicated Josh Dugan, who had earlier sparked the Dragons to life with a game-changing kick return, was slightly offside before his pursuit of Waqa.
The video referees declared there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field decision which had ruled in favour of the Dragons.
But late tries to Will Chambers - his second - field marshal Cooper Cronk and Tonumaipea helped the Storm pull off arguably the NRL’s best Houdini impersonation.
There was little to separate the two teams on the ladder heading into round six and only a Gareth Widdop penalty goal on half-time could split them at the break.
St George Illawarra’s blue chip back three had mixed fortunes in the first half; Jason Nightingale added another party trick to his repertoire with a no-look flick to send Dylan Farrell over for the first try while Brett Morris again cashed in after Billy Slater’s butter-fingered effort at catching a Michael Witt rainmaker.
For Dugan, it was a first half he’d probably want to forget. He uncharacteristically fumbled a straightforward Cooper Cronk grubber and was clean bowled by another Slater grass-cutter which led to a Will Chambers try.
Then the Storm centre caused further heartache for the State Of Origin representative with a crude shoulder charge, felling a clearly groggy Dugan seconds before the half-time hooter.
The Dragons’ dogged first-half display was soured after Farrell headed up the tunnel clutching a pectoral muscle, which forced Joel Thompson to moonlight in the centres afterwards.
MELBOURNE STORM 28 (Will Chambers 2, Jesse Bromwich, Cooper Cronk, Young Tonumaipea tries; Cameron Smith 4 goals) defeated ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 24 (Dylan Farrell, Brett Morris, Gerard Beale, Trent Merrin tries; Gareth Widdop 4 goals) at AAMI Park. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Atkins. Crowd: 13,130.