Roosters in a rage over ref’s calls as Storm snare controversial win on the back of two dubious tries


Death, taxes and the Storm defying pre-season predictions that this year will be the one when they slip down the ladder.

Seven rounds into the NRL season and Melbourne are yet again atop the ladder with a 5-1 record after rolling past the Roosters 18-12 at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night. 

But it was not without controversy with two of the Storm’s three tries awarded despite dubious acts from teammates in the lead-up – Nelson Asofa-Solomona looked to illegally help Eliesa Katoa when he scored in the first half and Reimis Smith appeared to take out Connor Watson when he tried to defuse a bomb before Xavier Coates crossed for the match-winner.

Their ninth win in 10 meetings with the Roosters has Melbourne sitting pretty in first place even though they have not been what you would call slick or firing on all cylinders. But the Storm make winning ugly a thing of beauty which is a joy forever in Craig Bellamy’s eyes. 

The Roosters are starting to drop off the pace at 3-4 following a patchy season which has raised questions about whether they still have the attacking firepower to compete for a title in 2024.

Roosters ropeable over dubious tries

Trent Robinson was rightly a red-hot Roosters coach after Melbourne scored a pivotal try in the first half to Eliesa Katoa. 

In the 31st minute, Cameron Munster launched a bomb acrossfield for Katoa to outleap three defenders and carry them over the line.

But he was able to scramble his way over the stripe after the gigantic frame of Nelson Asofa-Solomona gave his teammate a nudge forward as he tried to break free of the defence. 

It wasn’t the biggest of pushes and may not have made too much of an impact on the defenders but the Bunkers surprisingly gave the four-pointer the green light and Robinson was spitting chips inside the home coach’s box. 

There has been plenty of debate recently about referees applying black and white interpretations to obstructions when attacking players remain in the defensive line. 

Josh King is tackled. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The problem with that kind of interpretation is that when an obvious breach of the rules occurs, like big Nelson’s little shove, it fuels the perception of inconsistency in decision-making.

Melbourne took a 12-6 lead to the half-time break on the back of the contentious Katoa try after Jahrome Hughes had opened the scoring with a superb piece of backing up from his own kick.

The Roosters equalised when one of their players touched down out wide when Will Warbrick fumbled a Luke Keary bomb.

Cameron Munster earned himself a 10-minute rest via the referee in the 55th minute when he tackled James Tedesco from a quick tap. 

He blew the crowd a sarcastic kiss as he trudged off but he should have been keeping his head down after letting his teammates down with what Fox League analyst Greg Alexander labelled “a moment of madness”.

The Roosters thought they were back on level terms a short time later when Joey Manu split the defence to send Victor Radley sliding over under the posts but referee Ashley Klein correctly called the pass forward.

It was Melbourne’s turn to be denied by Klein when Katoa collided with Keary to create space for Nick Meaney 15 minutes from full-time.

Katoa gets over the line and puts Storm back in the lead!

???? Watch #NRLRoostersStorm on Ch.502 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 18, 2024

From the ensuing set, the Roosters again took flight out wide with Joseph Suaalii’s bat-back finding Manu to acrobatically plant the ball just inside the cornerpost.

Suaalii curled the sideline conversion to perfection to lock the scores up at 12-12.

Replays indicated the Roosters got lucky with a fumble from Michael Jennings on the previous tackle going unnoticed.

The match was decided five minutes from the final siren when Smith crashed into Watson as he leapt to reel in a Hughes high kick and when the ball spilled free, Harry Grant dribbled a grubber for Coates to slam the Steeden down over the stripe.

What was he thinking?

A ‘moment of madness’ from Munster and the Storm gun was given his marching orders ????

LIVE ????

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 18, 2024

Near-perfect Storm 

Apart from a narrow loss in Newcastle when they were without both starting halves and a few other regular stars, the Storm have not lost any of their other five outings. 

But that’s not to say they have been dominating – they ground out an 8-0 victory over the jet-lagged Panthers, got out of jail with a last-gasp try against the Warriors and were also below their best before late surges to beat the Broncos and Bulldogs. 

Against the Roosters they bombed a couple of tries, gave away some needless penalties and were probably lucky to score one try, but they racked up another notch in the wins column. 

Star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen is five games into his comeback from successive serious leg injuries and if he can continue getting back to his Clive Churchill Medal-winning best, it will almost be like a new signing for the Storm. 

Coincidentally they are also trying to get his signature on an extension already even though he is not off contract until the end of 2025. 

As it stands, the Storm’s ladder position probably flatters them somewhat and even the most purple-eyed fan would not say they are in a purple patch. 

But premierships are not won in April and Bellamy is renowned for slowly building his Storm sides to peak in the post-season. 

With the Origin season just around the corner which will take a toll on Harry Grant, Munster and Xavier Coates, Melbourne are well placed to weather that, uh, storm, and surge into the top four for the 12th time in the space of 14 years.

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