Storm sink Dragons 17-4 to lead ladder - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Storm sink Dragons 17-4 to lead ladder

By Melissa Woods 02/04/2010 07:01:06 PM Comments (0)

Skipper Cameron Smith might be reluctant to declare Melbourne the benchmark side of the NRL but their 17-4 victory over fellow competition heavyweights St George Illawarra said otherwise.

Both sides headed into the Etihad Stadium match unbeaten but only Melbourne's record remained intact after an 80 minute arm-wrestle.

Good Friday was just that for the Storm in front of more than 25,000 fans at Etihad Stadium, as they reinforced their status as the game's top team and continued the Dragons' misery in Melbourne, where they haven't won since 1999.

Electric fullback Billy Slater effectively sealed the result in the 67th minute with some trademark Melbourne magic.

In a move coach Craig Bellamy said the trio had practiced many times, Smith found halfback Cooper Cronk, who threw a no-look pass into the waiting arms of Slater, who dashed 30m to the line to extend the lead to 16-4.

Amazingly, it was Slater's 15th try in just six games at the indoor arena.

Cronk, playing his first full match after off-season groin surgery, then slotted a 72nd minute field goal to cap off an outstanding match.

Indicative of their standing as the two best defensive teams in the NRL, neither side was able to penetrate their opponent's wall of tacklers with the only first half points coming through two Smith penalty goals.

Bellamy was delighted with his side's second half attacking effort, but said defence was the cornerstone of the victory.

"It's been a fair while since a Storm team has defended that well for 80 minutes," he said.

"They were outstanding."

Bellamy said the Dragons' attack fell away in the second half due to the relentless pressure from his side.

"They probably hadn't been in that position this year, where they've been behind at half time and perhaps when they got behind they started pushing the ball a little bit more than they would when they're in front.

"You'd like to think our defence had something to do with that."

St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby said his team let themselves down with errors and penalties at crucial times, which halted their momentum after winger Jason Nightingale scored their sole try after 56 minutes to close the gap to eight points.

Melbourne's other tryscorers were centre Dane Nielsen, who was put through a hole by Slater five minutes after halftime, and then winger Anthony Quinn.

"We were off the pace, we haven't given away penalties like that or dropped the ball that much all year," Hornby said.

"It was the story of the night, every time we started going OK we'd drop the ball.

"If you give Melbourne enough opportunities they'll score points."

After four wins, including three away, Smith was more than satisfied with his side's standing but said they ignored labels such as benchmark.

"I guess a lot of people outside of Melbourne would say that ... because we've beaten St George but we don't like to look into that stuff because if you do that blokes start walking around with big heads and you start putting your feet up at training and not working on what made these four wins possible," he said.

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