Tries to Josh Addo-Carr and Felise Kaufusi gave the Storm a 20-14 win over the Vodafone Warriors in a classic Anzac Day clash at AAMI Park tonight.
The contest had everything going for it.
The Vodafone Warriors held a 14-12 lead for a period of time in the second half but the home side rallied to earn the two points and retain the Michael Moore Trophy.
It was Melbourne's fourth straight victory over the Vodafone Warriors.
After another wonderful pre-game Anzac Day ceremony, the on-field action began indifferently for the Vodafone Warriors as they immediately lost possession bringing the ball out of their own end.
Despite the setback, they defended the error impressively to turn the Storm away and then set about finding their rhythm in possession.
They did so outstandingly, too, drawing a penalty, forcing a goal-line dropout and then putting heat on with some great shape on attack.
To the right they worked it, Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson with slick hands to centre Blake Ayshford. He kept his composure, shook off his marker and shifted a nice pass to right wing David Fusitu'a to go over wide out, Johnson putting the conversion over off the far upright.
At 6-0 up after 12 minutes, the Vodafone Warriors set about mounting pressure through a solid completion rate and good set finishes. They had an edge without finding more points.
The tempo began to change, though, as the officials reached for the whistle with regularity, stinging the Vodafone Warriors with six straight penalties.
The weight of possession and field position eventually worked in the Storm's favour, giant forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona - who was a constant weapon - having an immediate impact coming off the interchange when he powered over between the posts. Cameron Smith converted for a 6-6 score-line after 30 minutes.
When the Vodafone Warriors were given a penalty in front of the posts, they were tempted to push on with the ball but eventually - on instruction - opted for two points, Johnson putting his side 8-6 ahead after 38 minutes.
The Storm had enough time to stretch the Vodafone Warriors when fullback Billy Slater was released. A lovely Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tackle stopped him but the Vodafone Warriors were under extreme pressure on their right side. Melbourne came at them with a huge overlap and were seemingly set to score only for Ayshford to rush up to envelop Cameron Munster. It was a telling play although Ayshford was ruled to be offside, handing Smith the chance to make it 8-8 at the break.
The game was in the balance, in the same way it had been when the Vodafone Warriors had an 8-6 halftime lead over Canberra in their last outing.
They started the second half needing the same mental toughness they'd shown in the first 40 minutes. They did more than that in the opening moments, uncorking another lovely try for Fusitu'a after the Foran-Johnson firm had combined with Tuivasa-Sheck. Johnson's conversion was astray.
The 12-8 lead didn't last long, the Vodafone Warriors succumbing to a long range raid with Cooper Cronk finishing off. Smith couldn't convert leaving the teams tied up again at 12-12 but the visitors went 14-12 ahead with another Johnson penalty in the 52nd minute.
There it stayed for the next 14 minutes until the Storm created numbers to their left for the swift Josh Addo-Carr to score for a 16-14 edge.
The Vodafone Warriors were under siege for a period but kept turning up on defence to repel the Storm, eventually earning a chance at the other end. It bore no fruit.
The killer blow came with Kaufusi's 77th minute try handing the Vodafone Warriors disappointment after such a brave display. Their intent, aggression and scramble on defence was fantastic for so much of the night.
They stayed in the match throughout, working off a sound completion rate of 29 from 34 sets (85 per cent) with just five errors. Working against them was an 8-5 penalty count which allowed the Storm to come back into the match and they also suffered through the injury-enforced loss of key centre Solomone Kata in the opening minute of the second half. It meant a reshuffle with Bodene Thompson shifted from the right edge to play in the centres on the left side.
Tonight's result leaves the Vodafone Warriors with a 3-5 record as they contemplate a shot turnaround ahead of their ninth-round meeting with the Sydney Roosters on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off).
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Storm 20 (Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Cooper Cronk, Josh Addo-Carr, Felise Kaufusi tries; Cameron Smith conversion, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 14 (David Fusitu'a 2 tries; Shaun Johnson conversion, 2 penalties).
Referees: Ben Cummins and Dave Munro.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; James Gavet, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Ligi Sao, Sam Lisone, Ben Matulino.