The Melbourne Storm dug deep to down Parramatta 16-12 in a golden point thriller at CommBank Stadium on Thursday night, stretching coach Craig Bellamy's remarkable winning streak in round one matches to 20.
With Cameron Munster nursing a dislocated finger in the second half and Xavier Coates injuring a shoulder, the Storm stayed in the fight long enough to take the game to golden point before Kangaroos hooker Harry Grant scooted over from dummy half to break the deadlock in the 84th minute.
The Storm have not lost an opening round match since Bellamy took the helm in 2003 and this will go down as one of their gutsiest victories given the loss of a number of stars in the off-season and the injury to Munster.
The home side opened the scoring in the fifth minute through a Mitch Moses penalty goal after Storm back-rower Eliesa Katoa went on report for late contact on the Eels halfback.
Some slick ball movement by the Eels then created opportunities for wingers Maika Sivo and Isaac Lumelume but the Storm defence scrambled superbly.
Grant steals it in Golden Point
Sivo got across the line in the 17th minute and looked to have the season's first try but the final pass from Dylan Brown was called forward.
A penalty against Alec MacDonald for late contact on Moses handed Parramatta an opportunity for another shot at goal but they chose to take a tap and keep the pressure on but came up empty.
The Storm lost Munster in the 28th minute and two minutes later the Eels opened the scoring through Will Penisini.
Meaney slices through
Munster remarkably returned to the field after the break and, perhaps inspired by his courage, the Storm grabbed their opening try in the 47th minute when Josh King delivered a sweet offload for Nick Meaney to score. The fullback converted his own try for 6-6.
A big play by Sivo in the 58th minute when he rag-dolled Jahrome Hughes into touch gave the Eels field position for hooker Josh Hodgson to send Junior Paulo over for a try.
No sooner had the Eels gone out by six than the Storm hit back through Young Tonumaipea after majestic lead-up by Munster, who passed the ball to himself before putting his centre over in the left corner. Meaney converted for 12-12.
With six minutes to play a mistake by Tyran Wishart opened the door for the Eels but Sivo kicked on tackle one and the ball went dead to let the Storm off the hook.
Moses then had a shot at field goal charged down with three minutes to play and Bryce Cartwright spilled a pass as the Eels mounted a right side raid.
The game went to golden point and Meaney was the first to miss a one-point attempt before Grant's class got the Storm home in a high quality contest.
Match: Eels v Storm
Round 1 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
- Storm back-rower Eliesa Katoa was put on report in the fourth minute for late contact on Mitch Moses.
- Storm bench forward Alec MacDonald was placed on report in the 27th minute after making late contact on Moses after a clearing kick.
- J'maine Hopgood was huge for the Eels in his first game for the club with 21 runs for 172 metres and 58 tackles.
- Storm fullback Nick Meaney was dangerous all night with 18 runs for 217 metres and three tackle breaks.
- The Storm have not lost a Round 1 game since 2001 against the Bulldogs.
- Props Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard led from the front for the Eels with 191 running metres each.
Munster leaves the field
- Josh Hodgson, Matt Doorey, J'maine Hopgood, Jirah Momoisea, Jack Murchie and Isaac Lumelume all made their Eels debuts.
- NRL debutant Bronson Garlick is the son of Sean Garlick, who played 160 games at the Rabbitohs and Roosters across a 10-year career.
- Eels bench forward Jirah Momoisea was placed on report for a dangerous tackle in the 66th minute.
- Storm centre Young Tonumaipea and Eels winger Isaac Lumelume both left the field for HIAs in the 67th minute. Both were cleared to return.
- Eels centre Will Penisini was sent for a HIA in the 70th minute.
Paulo the wrecking ball
Play of the Game
Cameron Munster is famous for his flashy plays but on Thursday night it was his toughness that came to the fore as he defied the pain of a compound finger dislocation to return for the second half and inspire his team-mates. The playmaking genius underwent a fitness test on his finger at half-time and went back out to play a starring role in the second half, coming up with a piece of magic to put Young Tonumaipea over for the try that levelled the scores with 15 minutes to play.
Munster waves his wand
What They Said
"I thought the contest was tough, physical, both teams went at it. I felt like we did enough and put ourselves in a position to win it but we just didn't execute well enough. There were some big moments at the back end that we didn't get right. We just needed to ice a couple of moments in the game. We always knew it was going to be a tight contest." - Eels coach Brad Arthur
Eels: Round 1
"It was a very busy coach's box, deciding who was going where, we had a few guys playing out of position so that was tough going. The last 10-15 minutes I thought you could see why our big guys [the spine] get paid the big money, they really came to the fore. There was a bit of confusion there on how bad Cameron's finger was but he got back on there and showed a lot of ticker." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy
Storm: Round 1
The Eels are on home turf again in round two when they host the Sharks. Lock Nathan Brown is expected back from a hamstring injury for the clash.
The Storm host the Bulldogs on Saturday night at AAMI Park. In the only meeting between the teams last year it was the Storm outclassing the Bulldogs 44-0 in round four. Tariq Sims (calf) and Tom Eisenhuth (back) look set to be available but Cameron Munster and Xavier Coates are set for a stint on the sideline.