Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy hailed his team’s grit after overcoming a spirited Warriors challenge to make it three wins to start the NRL season.
The Storm sealed a 21-14 victory in Auckland on Sunday with a last-minute Marika Koroibete try, just after Cooper Cronk had landed the field goal to edge them 15-14 ahead.
Bellamy said his players had started to run out of gas midway through the second spell, when the Warriors hit the front through a Jonathan Wright converted try, but managed to get back into the game.
“The most pleasing thing for me with this team this year is they’ve been playing fairly gritty footy,” he said.
“There have been some errors. Certainly our attack we need to improve, but we’ve been getting through some pretty tough times and coming out the other side.”
Bellamy said the difference between the sides at Mt Smart Stadium was the completion rates and the statistics – 89 per cent to 75 per cent – bear out the Storm’s better ball security.
But it was a tough result for the Warriors, who had put up a big effort for the second week in a row only to fall to a club record-equalling 11th straight defeat.
Second rower Ryan Hoffman, facing his former club for the first time as Warriors skipper, was ruing his team’s inability to finish games off.
“We played well but we haven’t got the win and we need to be getting those wins,” he said.
“We need to be playing for 80 minutes. Being a 77-minute football team or a 90 per cent football team isn’t good enough.”
The Warriors were without two of their big names in hooker Issac Luke and winger Manu Vatuvei.
Luke was ruled out after picking up a leg injury in training the previous day and 20-year-old Jazz Tevaga was given his NRL debut.
Vatuvei sat out after failing to get over a rib complaint.
A pin-point Cronk grubber set up the game’s opening try for Kenny Bromwich.
The Warriors struck back when winger Tuimoala Lolohea touched down out side.
But they couldn’t match the Storm’s greater accuracy and were called into plenty of goal-line defence.
They also were also on the wrong end of the early penalty count and another infringement led to Storm fullback Cameron Munster scoring.
Melbourne came close again after Warriors prop James Gavet was put on report for what looked like a conventional tackle on Munster.
It was a decision Warriors coach Andrew McFadden labelled as “ridiculous”, saying there was nothing illegal in the challenge.
The Warriors closed the gap early in the second spell when centre Solomone Kata scampered over from dummy half.
After Wright dived over in the corner, Shaun Johnson’s conversion nudged them in front 14-12.
But the Storm drew level with 11 minutes to through a Cameron Smith penalty.