Melbourne Storm have made a winning start to season 2016, holding on to defeat the Dragons 18-16 at AAMI Park.
Storm recovered from a slow start to overturn a 10-point deficit and make it an incredible 12 consecutive Round 1 victories for Craig Bellamy’s men.
The win saw the Club retain the Emergency Services Cup, played in honour of the NSW and Victorian volunteer emergency services personnel.
Billy Slater, playing his first game for Storm in nearly nine months, marked his return with a try assist to Koroibete while having a hand in the Fijian’s second of the night.
Playing his 50th NRL game Koroibete was at his highlight-making best, leading the side with 133 metres and a game-high three line breaks to go along with his two tries.
The early stages of the game belonged to the visitors as The Dragons struck first after five minutes when Jason Nightingale found plenty of space to score down the left touchline.
For the first 15 minutes the football seemed to stay almost exclusively in the hands of the Red V who enjoyed 66 per cent of possession.
It would prove too much to bear for Storm and they soon had their second through Benji Marshall. Skipper Gareth Widdop then made sure of the conversion to extend the margin out to 10.
Storm needed a stroke of luck and they were handed one in a timely fashion by the Dragons off the kickoff.
That was all opportunity Melbourne needed as Billy Slater, playing his first game in nearly nine months, made them pay with a brilliant cut out pass to an unmarked Marika Koroibete to score.
Cue the start of the Fijian Show.
Koroibete backed up his effort by bursting through for a line break off the proceeding kickoff and on 24 minutes he had his second in a near carbon copy of the first.
Again it was a Slater pass that found Koroibete down the left edge who stopped, starred at Josh Dugan before turning on his trademark speed to run around around the NSW fullback like he was not even there.
As the purple pressure rose so to did the error count for the Dragons as Cameron Smith stepped up for back to back penalty kicks on the stroke of halftime.
The first one saw the skipper reach 1,800 career points while the second handed Storm a 12-10 lead at the break.
Four minutes after the restart the Dragons committed another error 20m out from their line and Melbourne made their good ball count once again courtesy of some magic from the Bromwich brothers.
Jesse, with five Dragons players holding on, somehow found a way to offload the ball to Smith who found Bromwich of the Kenny variety to score near the posts. The skipper then added the conversion to make it an 18-10 lead.
The Dragons refused to lie down though as they cut the deficit back to two points with 24 minutes to play. With Storm’s defence unable to deal with a high ball in the end-goal Tyson Frizell proved the beneficiary to sweep in and score.
A nervous final 20 minutes ensued at AAMI Park the game hung precariously in the balance.
However Storm manage to hang tough for the win as they began the season in the sweetest way, with two points.
Melbourne will be back at AAMI Park this weekend at 6.30pm to host the Gold Coast Titans at AAMI Park.
Melbourne Storm 18
Tries: Marika Koroibete 2, Kenny Bromwich
Goals: Cameron Smith 3
St George Illawarra Dragons 16
Tries: Jason Nightingale, Benji Marshall, Tyson Frizell
Goals: Gareth Widdop 2