Storm 6 Tigers 10
Storm chasers ... Matt Duffie bumps off the challenge of Chris Lawrence while stand-in fullback Beau Ryan grapples with Sika Manu in last night's match at AAMI Park. Photo: Getty Images
SEVEN in a row. This one was hardly magnificent, but it was enough. Which is very much unlike the Tigers, who were hanging on at the death as the Storm sensed their own kill.
Usually the Tigers finish fast; last night they faded, but they prevailed.
Keith Galloway of the Tigers is tackled by Jaiman Lowe. Photo: Getty Images
While it will not go down as the Tigers' best performance of the season, it would have been one of their most pleasing. Not only did the Tigers win a grind against Melbourne - albeit an understrength Storm side - the combination of halfback Benji Marshall and five-eighth Curtis Sironen continues to blossom.
Sironen is an imposing figure for one so young. Perhaps that is one reason he has looked so comfortable in the side, just three matches into his NRL career. That said, he has shown the skill to match the size. Some of his touches last night were subtle, superb. He is indeed a gun of a son.
Despite winning six straight matches, there was still a feeling the Tigers had still not been truly tested. Fortunately and unfortunately for them, not even Melbourne could provide a true test, not without their three best players away on Origin duty. With Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk watching the match on television from Coolum, the Storm appeared to be more like a rather blustery wind.
Former Storm man Adam Blair of the Tigers is tackled. Photo: Getty Images
Still, Melbourne were never going to roll over. They presented the Tigers with an ideal opportunity to play against a side that still has backbone even without its famous spine.
The Tigers had their own demons too. Not only had they never played at AAMI Park before, no Tigers side had been able to win in Melbourne. And they had to endure the loss of their fullback Tim Moltzen in the warm-up. Beau Ryan was shifted to fullback while Blake Ayshford was given a starting role, rare of late.
The Tigers had their own skipper out, Robbie Farah being in camp with NSW, but they are always given an advantage at this time of year, having the best player not able to play Origin in their line-up. Marshall's impact was almost immediate; the five-eighth kicked a fourth-minute 40-20, then used the same boot to score the first points of the night with a seventh-minute penalty.
That showed the Tigers were prepared to get into an arm-wrestle. And they did. They were patient; despite the few opportunities through most of the first half going unrewarded, they did not panic.
Melbourne scrambled superbly in the first half, which is one of the many things they do better than anyone else. But without their stars, they could not put enough pressure on the Tigers in attack.
Still they scrapped though, and they were rewarded on the last kick of the first half. Five-eighth Gareth Widdop levelled up the scores with a 40th-minute penalty.
The Tigers weren't taking their chances, the Storm weren't creating them; it was beginning to look like these sides were paying homage to Euro 2012, starting later in the night, with a 2-2 scoreline.
Shortly after halftime, the Tigers broke the shackles. Both wingers had scored within seven minutes of the restart, and the Tigers had achieved, in the conditions, a potentially winning score.
Just three minutes into the second half, good work down the Tigers' left side gave Lote Tuqiri a try. Then they tried their luck on the other side of the field. Matt Utai ducked under the attempted tackle of Dane Nielsen, risking the prospect of head-butting the turf for someone so vertically challenged, to stretch the lead past a converted try.
Their short burst of points having done its work, the Tigers could settle back down, knowing the Storm were unlikely to score one try, let alone two. They got one, through Nielsen, and pushed hard for a second up until the final seconds. But the Tigers held their nerve.
WESTS TIGERS 10 (L Tuqiri M Utai tries B Marshall goal) bt MELBOURNE 6 (D Nielsen try G Widdop goal) at AAMI Park. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 11,274.