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Air Coates snatches Storm victory  to extend Warriors hoodoo

A stunning last-gasp Xavier Coates try snatched an unlikely win for Melbourne and continued a 10-year hoodoo against the Storm for a "gutted" Warriors outfit.

The Storm scored two tries in the final three minutes to triumph 30-26, with an airborne Coates securing the victory with a spectacular put down after diving over the top of wing opposite Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen scored in the 77th minute to give the Storm a chance of snatching victory after the Warriors had piled on three unanswered second half tries to take a 26-18 lead.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy described the finish to the match as "unbelievable" and admitted his team may not have deserved to win.

"There's not too many guys in our game who could score a try like that but he is one hell of a player," Bellamy said of Coates.

Ryan Papenhuyzen Try

Coates told Fox Sports: "Craig always instils into you that if you show a bit of effort, you work hard for your mates, great things will happen. I think we showed that.

"I am pretty happy to get that ball down and to win the way that we did, I am really proud of the team. It's definitely something I work on at training and I am just happy it came off in a game".

Until Coates' spectacular finish on the last play of the game, it appeared returning hero Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had inspired the Warriors to their first win in Melbourne since 2014 in just his second match back following two seasons in rugby union.

The Storm have now beaten the Warriors in the past 15 encounters between the two clubs, who play for the Michael Moore Trophy in honour of the former Melbourne football manager who drowned after a match in Auckland in 2000.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster described the loss as "gut-wrenching".

"When you got a winger who can jump over a skyscraper and then put the ball down in the corner, it's pretty amazing, but it's hard to cheer when you are feeling this way," Webster said.

The Storm enjoyed the perfect start when Papenhuyzen's kick-off bounced into touch and the home team received a scrum feed 20 metres from the Warriors' defensive line.

Rookie playmaker Jonah Pezet crossed on just the fourth tackle but the try was disallowed for an obstruction by Fiji captain Tui Kamikamica. 

However, there were no doubts when former All Blacks 7s representative Will Warbrick leapt above Marcelo Montoya to latch onto a Jahrome Hughes kick and score in the Storm's next set of possession.

Will Warbrick Try

The Warriors hit back in spectacular fashion when halfback Shaun Johnson fired a long ball to rookie fullback Taine Tuaupiki, who took advantage of the overlap to put Watene-Zelezniak over for his first try of the match in the 11th minute.

Hughes again turned creator for the Storm's next try when he stepped and weaved his way through the defence on a long run - as he had done in the lead up to the first try - before sending centre Nick Meaney racing away to score.

Nick Meaney Try

Papenhuyzen, who Meaney had deputised for at fullback last season, scored just his second try since June 30, 2022 when he sliced through the defence in the 22nd minute to extend Melbourne's lead to 18-6.

Hughes then came up with a try saving tackle on Montoya in the 33rd minute - holding him up over the line - to ensure the Storm maintained their 12-point lead at half-time.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak Try

The Warriors needed to score first in the second half and they did, with Johnson firing a long pass to centre Rocco Berry, who tapped the ball on to Watene-Zelezniak for a stunning 45th minute try.

Tuivasa-Sheck, the 2018 Dally M Medallist and 2019 Golden Boot winner, then served a reminder of his brilliance after two years in rugby union when he soared for a Johnson kick and passed to Jackson Ford to score.

Jackson Ford Try

A Luke Metcalf penalty goal levelled the scores at 16-all and the talented playmaker helped put the Warriors ahead midway through the second half when he fired a cut-out pass for Montoya to score after Xavier Coates had fumbled a Johnson kick.

Back-to-back Metcalf penalty goals put the Warriors ahead 26-18 but the Storm stunned them with two late tries to Papenhuyzen and Coates.

Ryan Papenhuyzen Try

Match snapshot

  • Coates has now scored nine tries in his past five games against the Warriors.
  • The Storm have won their past 15 games against the Warriors.
  • The Warriors had not won at AAMI Park since 2014.
  • Shaun Johnson is the only survivor from the Warriors last win against the Storm at Mt Smart Stadium in 2015.
  • All of the Warriors' back five ran more than 100 metres with the ball, led by Watene-Zelezniak (181m), with Taine Tuaupiki (180m), Tuivasa-Sheck (128m), Montoya (122m) and Berry (120m).  
  • Melbourne prop Christian Welch failed a HIA at halftime and was ruled out for the remainder of the match.
  • Samoa international Chanel Harris-Tavita made his first NRL appearance since sitting out the 2023 season to go travelling when he came off the bench for the Warriors in the 72nd minute.
  • The Warriors made seven errors to Melbourne's two in the first half, but they turned in a near faultless second half. 
  • The Storm wore black arm bands in honour of Billy Slater's brother-in-law Ryan Craig, who died last week in a boating accident.

Play of the game

Superlatives can't do justice to the brilliance of Xavier Coates' match winning try. With just seconds remaining on the clock and the Storm trailing by two points, Coates launched himself into the air from six metres out and dived over the top of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to somehow plant the ball with his right hand just before his left hand hit the sideline- to snatch a stunning victory.  

Coates with the best match winner you have ever seen

What they Said

"To show that sort of resilience and never give up, we've still got a lot of guys who haven't played a lot of NRL in this team but one thing they've shown the last couple of weeks is that they will turn up in the tough times. You are not going to get there every time but you are going to get there sometimes," - Storm coach Craig Bellamy

Storm: Round 2

"It's obvious that it's gut-wrenching. It's one of those ones that hurts, obviously, but there's parts where I'm so proud and there's parts where I just want the boys to realise that if they do that for the 80 minutes we wouldn't be in that situation at the end of the game. I said to the boys that when you put all of your emotions and everything else into the team performances where you try really hard but don't get any reward - especially that one tonight - it's going to test you," - Warriors coach Andrew Webster

Warriors: Round 2

What's Next

The Warriors host the unbeaten Raiders at a sold out Apollo Projects Stadium in Christchurch next Friday night, while the Storm travel to Newcastle to take on the Knights on Sunday.

Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster (groin) is a chance to play for the Storm but is more likely to be held back until after the club's Round 4 bye.

Kiwis prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is a more likely inclusion after returning from a hamstring injury via Queensland Cup but Christian Welch is in doubt after failing a HIA.

Webster said that star fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (hamstring) was still several weeks away, while it was uncertain if hooker Wayde Egan (elbow) would be available against the Raiders.


Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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