Warriors stun Storm in Melbourne - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors stun Storm in Melbourne

14/09/2008 07:48:04 PM Comments (0)

The New Zealand Warriors shattered Melbourne's aura of invincibility and surged into premiership contention with a stunning 18-15 NRL qualifying final triumph.

The rampaging Warriors scored a try two minutes from fulltime through five-eighth Michael Witt to steal victory and become the first eighth-placed side since the introduction of the McIntyre finals system in 1999 to knock over the minor premiers.

Melbourne must now travel to face Brisbane next Saturday for a do-or-die showdown, while the New Zealand side have the luxury of hosting the Sydney Roosters in Auckland on Friday night in their sudden-death semi-final.

While smiling Warriors skipper Steve Price spoke after the game of his side's self-belief, Storm captain Cameron Smith's appraisal of his own players was far from glowing.

Smith said his players needed to take a long, hard look at themselves if they wanted to keep their title defence alive.

"I told them to go home and look in the mirror and see what they thought about their performance today, whether it's up to our standards and whether it's good enough to go all the way in this competition, I doubt there would be many blokes saying it was today," he said.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said if he wouldn't be backing his side who were the runaway premiership favourites going into the match, lamenting their high penalty count.

"If I was a punter, I wouldn't be putting money on us next week after that performance," Bellamy said.

"We gave away a lot of penalties and double-up sets and the penalties really hurt us.

"We've used up one of our tricks now and only get one more chance."

Melbourne may be forced to take on Brisbane without NSW Origin back-rower Ryan Hoffman, who re-injured his ankle early in the match while prop Jeff Lima also left the field with a knee problem.

While the Storm were uncharacteristically below par at Olympic Park, where they have only lost once at Olympic Park this year, credit must go to the never-say-die Warriors, who have now won nine of their past 11 games.

The score was 8-8 at halftime and then the Warriors hit the lead after a Billy Slater error, when he attempted to bat away a ball in the in-goal which was pounced on by Manu Vatuvei.

An Israel Folau try levelled the game again in the 54th minute and when five-eighth Greg Inglis slotted a field goal with 11 minutes remaining, it appeared the home side would hang on.

But with three minutes remaining, the Warriors elected to run the ball on the final tackle rather than take their own shot, however it ultimately proved a wise choice.

Their repeated attacks yielded success with Jerome Ropati combining with Vatuvei, who produced a magical one-arm offload to send Witt on a free run to the line.

Witt taunted Smith with the ball before touching down, worsening the pain for the Storm skipper.

"I always felt that if we could just get field position we were a chance," coach Ivan Cleary said.

"Sometimes you get those wins at the death. It's a bit of fate."

Price said his side spoken eight weeks ago about their mission to make the finals.

"It's a big challenge for us now," he said.

"We've got a game on Friday night so it's a short turnaround.

"The Roosters showed on Friday night that they're certainly up for it. It's do or die. It doesn't change for us but it certainly does for them."

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