A 79th minute Will Warbrick try has kept Melbourne's 2023 premiership dreams alive after overcoming a gallant Roosters side 18-13 at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The Roosters led 13-12 with less than two minutes to play but the Storm stole the final moments when a Cameron Munster crossfield kick ended in the hands of a leaping Warbrick, bringing 19,000 fans to their feet in Melbourne.
The victory booked the Storm a spot in their eighth preliminary final in the past nine seasons, setting up a 2020 grand final rematch against reigning premiers Panthers at Accor Stadium.
Replacing Jahrome Hughes (calf), utility Tyran Wishart demanded a spot in Craig Bellamy's squad to face the Panthers after scoring an early try and having a hand in several more in just his second game starting in the halves this season.
Wearing No. 21 on his back, Melbourne's fill-in halfback Wishart proved his playmaking capabilities early with a show-and-go from close range opening the scoring for the home side.
Tyran Wishart Try
Wishart was involved again after being on the receiving end of a Victor Radley high tackle in the 17th minute, handing Nick Meaney a chance to redeem an earlier wide conversion and extend Melbourne's lead 6-0.
On the back of a Brandon Smith error, Melbourne marched downfield again and an Eliesa Katoa offload created an overlap for Melbourne's right edge, putting the ball on a platter for centre Marion Seve.
The home side turned away multiple Roosters attacking raids before former fan-favourite Smith burrowed his way over from dummy half, reducing the deficit 10-6 before the break.
Brandon Smith Try
The Storm faithful were on their feet early in the second half with big men Christian Welch and Tom Eisenhuth breaking tackles and charging downfield but Melbourne failed to capitalise on the early field possession.
After spearheading his side's attack all game, Radley was haunted by a Wishart high ball and gifted Melbourne the first points of the second half with Meaney slotting a penalty shot to make it 12-6 with 21 minutes to play.
Roosters rookie Sandon Smith made his presence felt instantly, coming off the bench in the 62nd minute, breaking through Melbourne's defence and marching the ball downfield before sending a long ball for Lindsay Collins to level the score.
With the scoreboard locked and less than eight minutes to play, Roosters returning halfback Sam Walker stepped up to nail his second field goal in as many weeks.
But it was Melbourne with the last say when Munster produced a perfectly weighted kick crossfield, finding a leaping Warbrick who outmuscled Corey Allan to score in the right corner and keep the Storm's season alive.
Match: Storm v Roosters
Finals Week 2 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- The two sides shared 50 per cent of possession in the first half with the Storm completing 19 of 23 sets and the Roosters 19 of 21.
- Melbourne prop Tui Kamikamica was sent for a head injury assessment in the 76th minute.
- Roosters forward Terrell May got through a mountain of work in his 57 minute off the bench with a game-high 45 tackles, 129 run metres and seven tackle breaks.
- Tyran Wishart's opening try for the Storm was just the second of his career. The Melbourne utility did a fine job filling-in at halfback with 87 run metres and 18 tackles to go with his four-pointer.
- The Storm have won eight of their past nine games against the Roosters.
- The Storm have won eight of their past ten finals games at AAMI Park.
- The Storm will reach a preliminary final for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
Play of the Game
Cameron Munster had the ball on a string at AAMI Park on Friday night but it was his 79th minute kick which paid dividends for the Melbourne club, when a deft fifth tackle kick found a leaping Will Warbrick. With the Storm's season in his hands, Warbrick planted the ball down firmly in the right corner, booking his side a spot in next week's preliminary finals.
The winning moment: Warbrick
What They Said
"We're heartbroken I guess. We fought really hard to continue on and we believed we were going to keep going through until right at the end there. I felt like we found our team and our heart the longer this season went. I'm proud but it's disappointing to finish in week two. Those guys that have debuted this year or come through in their first year or two of plying have given us energy and have really stood up in critical times and that bodes well for the future." - Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
Roosters: Finals Week 2
"I think we made real hard work of it to be honest. Some of our options at times were poor and their kicking game was far superior to ours so that's something we'll have to look at for next week. We needed to come back with a display like that after last week, we were all really disappointed with how we performed last week...but I'm really impressed with how the club fought back and we live to fight another day." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy
Storm: Finals Week 2
The Storm are just one win away from a grand final and will meet with the Panthers for a preliminary final clash at Accor Stadium next Friday.
Having gone down to the Panthers in four of their last five finals meetings, Craig Bellamy's side have a huge task ahead and will be sweating on the fitness of representative stars Jahrome Highes (calf) and Xavier Coates (ankle) who were sidelined in Friday's match.
Meanwhile, for the Roosters their season comes to an end with their attention now turning to the Pacific Championships and preparations for the 2024 season.
Trent Robinson's side will farewell forward Fletcher Baker (Broncos) and Jaxson Paulo (Sea Eagles) but will welcome Knights English star Dominic Young next year.