A barnstorming showing from young prop Tino Faasuamaleaui, and the potential unearthing of the next brilliant Melbourne fullback in Nicho Hynes, emerged as the standout features of the Storm's 18-16 victory over the New Zealand Warriors in Saturday's trial in Palmerston North.
In a big-minute stint at the back for the Storm, Hynes – who played one NRL game last year – was directly involved in two of his side's four tries, kicking off a 75-metre effort in the second quarter with a half-break, before laying on the match-winning try for Chris Lewis eight minutes from time.
It was likely a more bittersweet experience for Storm fans watching Faasuamaleaui terrorise the Warriors with his aggressive defence and strong carries, knowing the Toa Samoa and Junior Kangaroos rep will be playing for the Gold Coast next year after inking a three-year deal with the Titans in December.
The narrow defeat certainly wasn't without positives for the Warriors either, with Karl Lawton and new signing Wayde Egan appearing to emerge unscathed in their first game back from off-season shoulder surgery.
Youngster Chanel Harris-Tavita also did nothing to harm his chances of unseating Kodi Nikorima as the club's starting five-eighth for round one, kicking well and scoring a clever first-half try off a quick tap from close range.
But there will be real concern around the health of prop Jackson Frei who left the game with a knee injury 14 minutes in and failed to return.
Sign up for a free NRL Account to access this video and other exclusive content.
Not sure? Learn more about an NRL Account.
After losing front-rower Bunty Afoa to a ruptured ACL last week, the Warriors can ill afford another serious injury in the engine room.
While on the whole the two squads were fairly well matched in terms of experience, Melbourne started with a superior 13 which featured 11 players with NRL experience, and they made the better start with a Harry Grant try after 11 minutes.
But that was quickly cancelled out by a Paul Turner effort after he raced onto a late offload from Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard metres from the line.
Harris-Tavita converted with a curling effort from a metre inside touch, and four minutes later the 2019 rookie burned the Storm on a quick tap, fighting through two would-be tacklers at the finish for a try under the posts.
The hosts made a horror start to the second quarter, coughing up possession on the very first play after a ratting hit from Faasuamaleaui, which Melbourne turned into points via a Sandor Earl try down the left flank.
In the shadow of half-time the Storm hit the front again, with Hynes putting Brenko Lee away down the side before he came back inside to an unmarked Cooper Johns, who scored under the posts and converted for a 14-12 half-time lead.
Cooper Johns finishes off Storm special
Twelve minutes into the third quarter the Warriors struck again, with a swift left-side move exposing Storm centre Marion Seve and allowing rookie wing Setu Tu to cross out wide.
But a bumping carry from former Warrior Albert Vete – in his first game back from shoulder surgery – laid the platform for Melbourne's match-winning try eight minutes from time, and on the next set Hynes sent back-rower Lewis over with a crisp short ball.
The Warriors did have one last chance to steal victory inside the final minute, but a Tuimavave-Gerrard knock on killed the attack off.