No Billy Slater, no worries.
Melbourne Storm showed they have the talent to cover for injured superstar fullback Billy Slater with his replacement Cameron Munster bagging a hat-trick in their 36-14 NRL win over Gold Coast at AAMI Park.
Munster expected to hold down the role temporarily while Slater was on State of Origin duty but has made it his own with the Test custodian out for the season following shoulder surgery.
The 20-year-old showed some Slater sparkle with three tries in the second half as the Storm scrambled from an 8-6 halftime deficit.
Winger Matt Duffie, in his first match back at AAMI Park since 2013 when he suffered serious shoulder and knee injuries, also grabbed a double in an impressive display.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said Munster, who has 13 caps with 12 coming this season, was improving each week – with the help of Slater.
The pair meet weekly to review and critique video of the youngster’s performance.
“They’re doing a fair bit of work together and there’s no better teacher than Billy on fullback play,” Bellamy said.
“Munster’s been pretty good since he came in but there’s just some little subtleties in fullback play that he’s much improved in.”
Gold Coast coach Neil Henry said he could see some of Slater in Munster.
“He’s pretty quick and plays similar to how Billy plays – hunting around that middle and with good footwork and speed,” Henry said.
“He made us look a bit pedestrian at times.”
The win leaves the Storm in sixth on the ladder but still in touch with the top four after their ambitions took a hit with last round’s shock loss to the Tigers.
Bellamy was happy with how they responded and said they showed patience after blowing five try-scoring opportunities in the first half.
He was particularly pleased with their improved defence.
“The first half was bit frustrating,” Bellamy said.
“The Titans started well and we went with them but we couldn’t seem to get a try.
“The pleasing thing was that we didn’t panic, we just kept gnawing away and the second half we did the same.
“It was a promising response to last week but it’s just one week and we’ve got to make sure we put it in perspective and get on with the rest of the season.”
Henry lamented their second-half fade-out after a promising first half.
Trailing 22-8, the Titans were unlucky when Storm winger Marika Koroibete held back winger David Mead in the in-goal as he tried to get to a loose ball, with the video refs deciding it wasn’t even worth a penalty let alone a penalty try.
“It was a pretty ordinary second 40 minutes and conceding three tries in the last 10 minutes was very disappointing for the effort that had gone before,” Henry said.
The Titans were still without skipper Nate Myles, who failed to come up from his shoulder injury to play.
Henry said there was no guarantee he would be back to face the Bulldogs next Sunday.