Melbourne, Victoria, New Zealand, April 25, 2009 – The Vodafone Warriors and Melbourne took a point each after they played out a 14-14 draw in a rugged golden point thriller in today's first-ever Anzac Day NRL clash between the two clubs at Olympic Park.
Down 6-14 soon after halftime when Storm centre Will Chambers scored, the Vodafone Warriors muscled their way back into the game with unconverted tries to Manu Vatuvei (55th minute) and Patrick Ah Van (63rd minute) to lock it up 14-14.
In the final stanza neither side could find a winner via the field goal route ensuring the Vodafone Warriors would head to golden point extra time for the second weekend running (after their 17-16 win against the Roosters last Sunday).
More field goal attempts failed from both sides until the final 30 seconds of the second period. A poor pass to Stacey Jones prevented him taking the snap shot. The ball bobbled in front of him, he re-gathered and shifted left to Lance Hohaia who potted what might have been the winning one-pointer.
Referee Tony Archer called on video referee Tim Mander, who viewed several angles before ruling Jones had knocked on and rubbing out the field goal.
So the Vodafone Warriors had to settle for their second golden point draw following on from the 31-31 result against the Sydney Roosters in 2007. It was just the sixth draw in 42 golden point matches since the sudden-death formula was introduced in 2003. The last instance was 12-12 draw between Penrith and Brisbane last year.
The result lifted Melbourne and the Vodafone Warriors to seven points, still ranked seventh and eighth on the NRL points table.
After scoring twice tonight Vatuvei needs just one more try bring up 50 in the NRL. He has one of the best strike rates in the competition, his 49 tries so far coming in just 79 games. In his last 21 NRL matches he has now scored 20 tries.
This was one of the most gruelling confrontations in the competition’s history as the two sides made more than 800 tackles between them in 90 minutes, Melbourne with 413 and the Vodafone Warriors with 400. It rounded off an energy-sapping six days for the Storm after an equally heavy defensive workload against Wests Tigers last Monday night when they totalled 410 tackles in an 80-minute contest.
It was also a match high on quality all round despite poor weather. Melbourne failed to complete just five sets all night, finishing with 39 from 44 (89%) while the Vodafone Warriors were only marginally inferior with 36 from 44 (82%). Most impressive was the output in the second half and the 10-minute period of extra time when the Storm completed 23 of 24 sets (96%) and the Vodafone Warriors 23 of 25 (92%).
The Vodafone Warriors had any number of exceptional contributors besides the astonishing Micheal Luck with his 74 tackles.
With the ball, seven players topped 100 metres – Steve Price with 200 from 23 runs, Vatuvei 178 from 16 (and a game-high three line breaks), Lance Hohaia 157 from 21 (plus a game-high 12 tackle breaks), Sam Rapira 148 from 17, Russell Packer 134 from 13, Jerome Ropati 125 from 18 and Simon Mannering 107 from 12. Melbourne also had seven 100 metres plus players including Kiwi props Jeff Lima (189) and Adam Blair (161).
With the match drawn the specially-struck ‘Spirit of Anzac’ Medal was awarded to a player from each side, the two coaches Craig Bellamy and Ivan Cleary singling out performers who “typified courage and comradeship, traits personified by soldiers who have and continue to fight for Australia and New Zealand”.
As it happened the medals were awarded to New Zealanders in both instances – World Cup-winning Kiwi props Rapira and Blair.
The Vodafone Warriors return home on Sunday before flying back to Australia next Saturday for their round eight clash against front-running St George Illawarra – a 29-0 winner against the Sydney Roosters today – in Wollongong the following day (Sunday, May 3). That will be the last match for the Vodafone Warriors before the first of their two byes in round nine.
At Olympic Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Storm 14 (Steve Turner, Billy Slater, Will Chambers tries; Cameron Smith conversion).
Vodafone Warriors 14 (Manu Vatuvei 2, Patrick Ah Van tries; Denan Kemp penalty).
Halftime: 10-6 Storm.
Referees: Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin.
Melbourne | Billy Slater; Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Greg Inglis, Anthony Quinn; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Jeff Lima, Cameron Smith (c), Adam Blair; Ryan Hoffman, Wairangi Koopu; Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Aiden Tolman, Brett White.
Vodafone Warriors | Lance Hohaia; Denan Kemp, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei; Joel Moon, Stacey Jones; Jesse Royal, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (c); Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman; Micheal Luck. Interchange: Sam Rapira, Nathan Fien, Russell Packer, Patrick Ah Van.