Superstar Cameron Munster tuned up for State of Origin with a masterful display in the Storm's 28-8 win over Manly at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
Munster will be a key man for Queensland on June 8 and his form in the opening game of Indigenous Round will have had Maroons coach and Storm legend Billy Slater licking his lips.
The Storm entered round 12 under pressure after two straight losses but they found their groove to run in five tries after an early one went begging when Felise Kaufusi's foot went into touch as he attempted to ground the ball.
A dropped ball by returning Manly winger Jorge Taufua in the seventh minute handed the Storm field position and Munster capitalised with a diagonal run from 10 metres out to grab his fifth try of the season.
The game then settled into an arm wrestle with both sides trading sets before Storm bench player Chris Lewis grabbed a rare try after neat lead-up work by Brandon Smith and Jahrome Hughes in the 31st minute.
Silky Hughes provides for Lewis
A great moment for Taufua in his first game since round 17, 2020 when Dylan Walker, Kieran Foran and Reuben Garrick combined to put him over in the left corner to drag Manly back to 12-4 late in the first half.
It took the Storm just three minutes to extend their lead after the break when Munster launched a pinpoint bomb to the corner and Xavier Coates flew high to snare the catch and touch down.
The Storm were handed another opportunity in the 53rd minute when Christian Tuipulotu put down a Hughes high ball but some strong defence by Manly's milestone man Kieran Foran snuffed out the raid.
Coates flies to grab a try
Munster then stamped his class on the match with two one-on-one steals in the space of two minutes, the second one on Taufua leading to a try for the champion five-eighth. With Nick Meaney's conversion the Storm led 24-4.
A try to veteran Storm forward Kenny Bromwich in the 66th minute made it 28-8 before Tuipulotu hit back for the Sea Eagles courtesy of a sweet cut-out pass by Foran.
Try as they might the Sea Eagles were unable to find a third try as they slipped to a seventh loss of the season and a reality check as to how tough life will be without their main man Tom Trbojevic.
The Storm's ninth win of the season moves them within two points of premiers Penrith who face the Cowboys on Friday night.
Munster steals his second
- The Storm enjoyed 55 per cent of possession in the first half and completed 22 of 24 sets at 91 per cent. Manly had 18 sets and completed 13 of those, doing a good job to stay in touch despite the weight of possession against them.
- Kieran Foran chalked up the milestone of 250 career games, 184 of which have been played at Manly, including the 2011 grand final when he and Daly Cherry-Evans steered the Sea Eagles to the title.
- Xavier Coates has scored 11 tries in 11 games for the Storm, equalling his 2021 output at the Broncos which came in 17 games.
Match: Storm v Sea Eagles
Round 12 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Reuben Garrick more than held his own stepping in to the Manly No.1 jersey with 18 runs for 185 metres and one try assist.
- The Sea Eagles lost utility Dylan Walker to a knee injury midway through the second half.
- Cameron Munster took his career tally of one-on-one strips to 24, the most ever, one clear of Raider Josh Hodgson with 23.
- The Storm have won their past six games against Manly.
- Tui Kamikamica started for the Storm for the second week in a row and grabbed his opportunity with 13 runs for 125 metres in 55 minutes of game time.
Play of the Game
Manly winger Jorge Taufua has overcome huge obstacles to make it back to the NRL after suffering a serious Achilles injury on September 5, 2020. Renowned for his big hits jamming in off the wing, Taufua has also proven a prolific tryscorer since debuting for the Sea Eagles in 2012. When the 30-year-old crossed in the corner in the 38th minute after some slick work by his inside men he took his career tally to 88 tries, fifth all-time for Manly behind Brett Stewart (163), Steve Menzies (151), Bob Fulton (129) and Steve Matai (91). Having worked so hard to get his body right and return to the NRL it was just reward for Taufua to score in his comeback match.
Welcome back Jorge
What They Said
"We probably left a couple of tries out there in the first half but I really liked the way we started the second half, we had plenty of intent with our running and a bit of desire with our defence. We scored early in the second half and then our defence won it from there. We can certainly still get better but some of that lack of smoothness comes from the fact a few guys there haven't played too much together but as far as competing tonight it was really good." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy
Storm: Round 12
"I was really disappointed with us tonight, from our application. I thought at 12-4 we weren't in too bad a position but we just don't give ourselves a chance, we don't set it up, we don't execute well enough. I think we were disappointing in a number of areas that you've only got to adjust or fix in a minor way and you're right in the game. It's about building that pressure and building that field position and we just didn't give ourselves a chance, we inflict it upon ourselves."
- Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler
Sea Eagles: Round 12
The Storm enjoy a bye in round 13 to refresh and regroup while the likes of Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Felise Kaufusi are away in Origin camp with the Maroons. Three days after Origin One the Storm head to the SCG to face the Roosters.
The Sea Eagles are one of the eight teams who will be playing in round 12 - tackling the Warriors at 4 Pines Park. Apart from injured superstar Tom Trbojevic they are also set to be without Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans on Origin duty.