Hughes lifts Storm to extend win streak over Warriors

Jacob Shteyman |

Eliesa Katoa scored a superb try for the Melbourne Storm against the Warriors in Auckland.
Eliesa Katoa scored a superb try for the Melbourne Storm against the Warriors in Auckland.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has heralded a Jahrome Hughes masterclass in a come-from-behind 38-24 win over the Warriors in Auckland that cemented his side’s lead atop the NRL ladder.

The Storm halfback was at the centre of proceedings on Saturday night as he steered his side back from a 14-0 deficit in the opening 20 minutes with four try assists, three line-break assists and a spotless display with the boot.

The victory extended Melbourne’s dominance over the Warriors to 16 straight wins over 3261 days – the longest active winning streak over a single team in the competition.

The Storm's Grant Anderson.
The Storm’s Grant Anderson showed his athleticism while scoring against the Warriors. (Brett Phibbs/AAP PHOTOS)

“I thought Jahrome was outstanding and he has been all year to be quite honest,” Bellamy said.

Without injured Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster alongside him, Hughes took control when his side looked on track for a belting.

In front of a capacity crowd at Go Media Stadium, the Warriors blew the Storm away in the opening quarter, boasting 76 per cent of possession and 90 per cent of territory.

In the driving rain Melbourne failed to complete a set until the 14th minute, but for all the home side’s dominance they were made to rue just two tries to show for it.

“I can’t remember us starting that badly to be honest,” Bellamy said.

“The guys showed a lot of resilience to come back and build ourselves back into the game.”

After his side had barely been tackled in the opposition half, Eliesa Katoa stole the ball off Warriors centre Adam Pompey, who had just touched down from receiving a Hughes bomb, and crossed over to open the Storm account. 

In a scintillating 20-minute spell, Melbourne completed 11 from 11 sets and scored another three tries through Grant Anderson, Dean Ierimia and Nick Meaney to close out the first half on top. 

And Hughes was at the centre of it all.

“Jahrome’s in charge of our attack, so obviously he was making the calls there,” Bellamy said.

“It just looked to me like we just settled down, decided that we were going to be patient, decided that we were going to be disciplined and then it rolled on from there.

“He’s probably had the best season that he’s had with us.”

The Warriors started the second half as they started the first, scoring through NSW Blues contender Mitch Barnett. But the Aucklanders’ ill-discipline cost them, with wingers Marcelo Montoya (professional foul) and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (dangerous tackle) sent to the sin bin within six minutes of each other.

The Storm capitalised with tries to Xavier Coates and young fullback Sua Fa’alogo, who completed his first NRL brace with a game-settler in the 79th minute.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster could lose Watene-Zelezniak to the judiciary and centre Rocco Berry – who was taken from the field in agony after injuring his shoulder – for their next match against Gold Coast.

“Really disappointing,” Webster said. 

“The boys were super-focused, committed. Physically I thought we were outstanding, I thought we looked so strong and dominant.

“But every error had an unbelievably negative result from it. You go through a game and you make errors and sometimes they might hurt you. Tonight anything negative wasn’t little, it was massive and to be fair to them they took advantage of that.”

Warriors talisman Shaun Johnson was anonymous on his return from injury, failing to make an impact with the boot or his ball-playing. 

Halves partner Te Maire Martin notched his 10th try assist in four games, but after the opening minutes was disappointing, sending a kick out on the full and going on report for a high shot on Fa’alogo.