The two most out of form sides met in Melbourne for a clash which really could go either way. Melbourne, having lost 5 of their last 6 games, faced an Auckland side who has won just 1 of their last 9 games, yet were in a situation where a win against the Storm, along with a Sharks loss to Windsor, would see the Vulcans move into the top 8.
Auckland kicked off and right from the outset, both sides showed that they weren’t going to take too many risks with play dominated almost entirely by the forwards. Tufeao almost sliced through close to the Storm line when he threw a dummy, but lost the ball when trying to get an offload away.
The second error of the match granted Melbourne with their first scoring opportunity when a pass from Wright went behind Godinet who was looking to kick a 40/20 on the last. The Vulcans winger scooped up the ball but was tackled and the ball handed over to Melbourne, just 35 metres out from Auckland’s line.
Chisholm scored a great try when he picked up the ball from dummy half, dummied, ducked, stepped and dived over to score next to the posts. Chisholm converted his try for a 6-0 Storm lead.
Five minutes later Auckland hit back when Godinet cross-kicked to his right winger Tuinauvai. Seve appeared to let the ball go thinking it may go out on the full, but didn’t see Tuinauvai behind him, who caught the ball and ran around to score untouched. Locke’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful and after 13 minutes the Vulcans trailed 6-4.
Within the next five minutes Melbourne hit back when Langford charged the ball up to the goal line defence and spinning out of the tackle and falling forward over the line to score. Chisholm converted the try to take the Storm lead out to 8.
Auckland fought back almost immediately when a Caird offload put Godinet into space. Godinet ran 30 metres and passed to Aranga who came flying through in support and ran 20 metres to score. Locke converted the try to reduce the deficit to 2.
The Vulcans continued to dominate play, especially Caird, who was again inspirational in setting up the next try to Taka, when he ran at the Storm goal-line defence, drew two defenders before passing to Taka who scored on the right side. Locke’s conversion put Auckland in front by 4 with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
From the kick-off, Auckland pushed the ball down the left wing making several incisive runs. Godinet spread the ball from the left wing to the right to Tuinauvai, who went looking for a try in the right corner but was almost pushed into touch. Taka scooped up the ball from dummy half and dived through the retreating cover defence to score in the corner. Locke’s sideline conversion was unsuccessful.
Auckland almost scores another try when a Godinet bomb is dropped by Koko who slipped. While on the ground, Koko was somehow able to kick the bouncing ball dead with two Vulcans defenders on top of him looking for a gift try.
Right on halftime, Chisholm scored a magnificent solo try. Play had shifted to the right side to Chisholm who found himself running out of room and with no support, he stepped back, propped, danced to the left, stepped right, bumped off a tackle and then found himself in space and ran 40 metres to score. His attempt to convert his own try was unsuccessful and at half time Auckland lead 20-16.
The second half began in a very restricted manner, both sides focussing entirely on playing in the middle of the ruck. Woolford attempted a 40/20 but kicked the ball out on the full. 3 tackles later Godinet put in a chip kick which was caught by Afioga who dived over to score but was ruled to be offside.
Ten minutes into the second half the weather dramatically changed from sunny to icy cold, windy and raining. Ball control for both sides deteriorated rapidly due to the conditions and both sides opted to kick more often. A grubber by Chisholm just went dead before Uhatafe could get a hand on it.
Rochow broke throw the Vulcans right edge defence and ran 30 metres before being brought down 5 metres short of the try line. Woolford attempted a grubber from dummy half. The ball bounced off the Vulcans defenders legs and Woolford dived on the loose ball, giving the Storm a repeat set on the Auckland line. Chisholm put up a bomb which was misjudged and allowed to bounce by Aranga and Vea collected the loose ball and scored near the uprights. Chisholm converted to give the lead back to the Storm after 57 minutes.
As the weather got worse, so did the ball control and both sides struggled to gain any momentum. It took until the 65th minute before Auckland scored when Taka ran onto a short inside ball at pace close to the Storm line and barged over for his third try to the right on the sticks. Locke’s missed conversion saw the Vulcans in front by just 2 points.
Melbourne hit back almost immediately when a clever short pass by Kostjasyn put Vea through a huge gap, who raced away to score on the left side. Chisholm converted the try and the Storm were back in front by 4.
Play was again sloppy with little opportunities for either side. Another Chisholm bomb was again misjudged and allowed to bounce by Aranga, but Seinafo was able to clean up the loose ball, preventing another Storm try.
With just 3 minutes left, Chisholm sealed the match with another brilliant solo try. Woolford passed to Chisholm, who was 10 metres from the Vulcans line. Chisholm ran the ball, got out of the tackle, saw no space, so he stepped back, stopped and then stepped and charged to his right between two defenders, broke through the defence and score next to the posts. He converted his own try to seal a Storm victory 34-24.
5 Michael Koko
2 Maeli Seve
3 Willie Isa
22 Luke MacDougall
18 James Uhatafe
9 Rory Kostjasyn
7 Dane Chisholm
8 Hep Cahill
20 James Woolford
24 Jesse Bromwich
11 Robbie Rochow
12 Atelea Vea
13 Billy Rogers
14 Ryan Marlin
15 Dale Langford
16 Mananui Te Hue Hue
17 Pulou Vaituutuu
1 Johnny Aranga
2 Fetongi Tuinauvai
3 Niuvao Taka
4 Mike Afioga
5 Kevin Locke
6 Patrick Ah Van
7 Pita Godinet
8 James Gavet
9 Kelvin Wright
10 Mataupu Poching
11 Silaii Tufeao
12 Tulson Caird
13 Jeremy Latimore
14 Howie Matthews
15 Feu’u Seinafo
16 Nathaniel Neale
17 Kurt Tehira
WHEN THEY SCORED
7th min - Melbourne 6-0 - Chisholm try, Chisholm goal
13th min - Melbourne 6-4 – Tuinauvai try
18th min - Melbourne 12-4 – Langford try, Chisholm goal
23rd min - Melbourne 12-10 – Aranga try, Locke goal
30th min - Auckland 16-12 – Taka try, Locke goal
32nd min - Auckland 20-12 – Taka try
40th min - Auckland 20-16 – Chisholm try
57th min - Melbourne 22-20 – Vea try, Chisholm goal
64th min - Auckland 24-22 – Taka try
68th min - Melbourne 28-24 – Vea try, Chisholm goal
77th min - Melbourne 34-24 – Chisholm try, Chisholm goal
MELBOURNE 34 (Chisholm 3, Vea 2, Langford tries; Chisholm 5 goals)
AUCKLAND 24 (Taka 3 tries, Tuinauvai, Aranga tries; Locke 2 goals)
Referee: Matt Hawkins
Half-Time: Auckland 20-16
Scrums: Melbourne 9-3
Penalties: Auckland 6-3
Goal Kickers: Chisholm (Melbourne) 5 from 6, Locke (Auckland) 2 from 5
****This match report appeared in Rugby League News magazine****