For the second year running the Vodafone Warriors have been denied an upset win by a Melbourne rally in the traditional Anzac Day NRL clash between the two clubs. Photo: Photosport.


In the corresponding fixture last year, the Vodafone Warriors were level with the Storm at 14-14 with 15 minutes to go only to be undone in the final stanza as the home side picked up three late tries for a flattering 32-14 winning margin.


That night centre Will Chambers scored a hat-trick and Vodafone Warrior-in-the-making Dane Nielsen snared a double.


Move forward to the 2013 Anzac Day edition on Thursday night and there were eerie similarities.


The Storm came into the match with six straight wins and 14 in all stretching back to last August but, once again, they found the Vodafone Warriors a handful.


After the sides were level 10-10 at halftime, a stunning Shaun Johnson intercept try from 80 metres out had his side 16-10 in front after 52 minutes. At the very least, the Vodafone Warriors were unsettling the normally unflappable Melbourne and had been doing so from the opening minutes after taking an early lead with a Ben Henry try.


Having gained the lead, they found themselves back on level terms at 16-16 after conceding a Cooper Cronk-inspired Sisa Waqa try but edged back in front at 18-16 through a Johnson penalty from wide out on the left side of the field inside the final 15 minutes.


The lead might have been precarious but the Vodafone Warriors had been in a similar position in the 2011 Anzac Day match when they were 18-14 ahead and held on heroically. In 2012 it was 14-14 but they couldnt get the job done.


Now in 2013 they had a two-point advantage looking to create more pressure on the Storm. A would-be Johnson 40-20 promised to be the critical play in the late stages of the game; the touch judge called it a 40-20 but he was overruled. The contest turned on it.


In the 72nd minute the Storm went long range to score through Chambers two tries this time to go with his three last year but every Vodafone Warriors player, member and fan had every reason to question the validity of the final pass from Waqa to Chambers. The officials didnt have the same view and the Storm had gone ahead 22-18 for the first time since Mahe Fonuas 31st-minute try.


The Vodafone Warriors werent out of it, though. There was still time to regain the lead and complete a huge upset.


Instead an error bringing the ball out of defence handed Melbourne an attacking scrum four minutes from time. All too easily they worked a try-scoring play directly from the scrum, Billy Slater spearing through to give his side a 15th straight win.


It was cruel end to a spectacular match.


The Vodafone Warriors made a major contribution throughout with some dazzling football but were left to reflect on a 10-point loss when only minutes earlier theyd been in position to win.


They return home on Friday to prepare for their eighth-round encounter with the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday week (May 5, 2.00pm kick-off), their first home game in a month. Its followed a week later by The Capital Clash, history being made with the first home game played outside Auckland when the Vodafone Warriors face Canterbury-Bankstown at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, May 11 (7.30pm kick-off).


Match details:


At AAMI Park, Melbourne

Melbourne Storm 28 (Will Chambers 2, Mahe Fonua, Sisa Waqa, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 4 conversions).

Vodafone Warriors 18 (Ben Henry, Bill Tupou, Shaun Johnson tries; Shaun Johnson 2 conversions, penalty).

Halftime: 10-10.

Referees: Matt Cecchin and Henry Perenara.


Vodafone Warriors: Kevin Locke; Bill Tupou, Konrad Hurrell, Jerome Ropati, Ngani Laumape; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Sam Rapira (c), Nathan Friend, Russell Packer; Feleti Mateo, Ben Henry; Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Pita Godinet.