NRL: NZ Warriors extend losing record against Melbourne Storm to 16 games despite early dominance

Powerful second-rower Eliesa Katoa has returned to haunt his old NRL club, inspiring Melbourne Storm to a 38-24 victory over NZ Warriors at a soldout Go Media Stadium.

With his team totally outplayed in the opening 20 minutes and trailling 14-0, the former Warrior scored a try and made the telling break for another, as the Storm rallied to lead at halftime and then took advantage of a numbers advantage to put the contest out of reach for the home side.

Katoa ran for 132 metres, while making a game-high 39 tackles, while NZ Kiwis half Jahrome Hughes tormented his countrymen with his kicking game, wracking up 393 metres and assisting on two of his team's tries.

The result extends a nine-year, 15-game streak for Melbourne over the Warriors, as they extend their lead atop the competition table.

Eliesa Katoa scores a try against the Warriors.
Eliesa Katoa scores a try against the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

The Auckland side saw their three-game winning snapped, as they remained outside top-eight playoff contention.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster tweaked his line-up before kickoff, starting Dylan Walker at lock and moving captain Tohu Harris to the bench.

The home side enjoyed a surfeit of early possession through penalties, set restarts and Storm errors, before centre Adam Pompey burst onto a short pass from five-eighth Te Maire Martin to open the scoring.

They had another attacking penalty, when Katoa took Martin in midair, as he kicked at the end of a set. Pompey slotted the kick at goal.

When Hughes put a line dropout into touch on the full, the home side were in again, with fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad throwing a spectacular no-look, behind-his-back pass to open winger Marcelo Montoya. 

In the 20th minute, the Storm finally entered the Warriors half and, when Hughes kicked high towards the posts, Pompey rose to claim the ball, but was dispossessed by Katoa, who scored against his old club.  

Another spilt high ball by winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak put his team under more pressure and Hughes kicked to the corner, where winger Xavier Coates kept the ball alive for winger Grant Anderson to score.

The visitors had another chance, when Warriors prop Jackson Ford contacted Hughes as he kicked, and from the penalty, the Storm shifted right, where centre Dean Ieremia crossed in the corner.

After dominating the opening 20 minutes, the home side had squandered their lead and were now 14-14 level.

With halftime looming, Melbourne took the lead for the first time, when Katoa broke the defence inside his own half and found centre Nick Meaney in support to finish the move. As Meaney converted his own try, the Warriors lost centre Rocco Berry to injury. 

Behind 20-14 at the break, the Warriors seemed to strike soon after the restart, when Martin found second-rower Marata Niukore running at speed, but he was held up over the line, before hooker Wayde Egan was penalised for impeding defenders.  

At the other end, Nicoll-Klokstad and Faalogo scrambled for a loose ball behind the goal-line, with the Warriors winning the ball.

Surging back onto attack, they maintained possession, when Coates spilled a high kick, and second-rower Mitch Barnett took three tacklers over the tryline with him.  

Warriors celebrate a try to Adam Pompey.
Warriors celebrate a try to Adam Pompey. Photo credit: Photosport

Niukore charged onto a short pass from Martin and was centimetres short of the line on the last tackle. Forward Jazz Tevaga forced the ball free from Ieremia near the tryline and slide across, but the play was ruled out for a high shot by Martin in the build-up.

The Warriors desperately chased a go-ahead score, but suffered a setback, when Martin kicked into touch on the full and Montoya was sin-binned for two quick penalties. Faalogo immediately punished them, slipping a tackle to score.

They lost Watene-Zelezniak for a high tackle off the ball, reducing them to 11 players, and hooker Harry Grant put a kick through for Coates, as the scoreline began to blow out. 

Restored to full contingent, the Warriors stemmed the flow and Watene-Zelezniak was held up in midair over the tryline. A Storm error gave them another chance and Pompey offloaded for Montoya to grab a second try.

With Pompey indisposed, Chanel Harris-Tavita slotted the sideline conversion, but with less than five minutes left, they still needed two tries. As they threw caution to the wind, they coughed up the ball and Faalogo showed his footwork for a try double.

The Warriors have a prime opportunity to bounce back next Saturday, when they travel to Gold Coast Titans - a virtual home game, given the region's expat Kiwi population.

Melbourne Storm 38 (Faalogo 2, Katoa, Anderson, Meaney, Coates tries; Meaney 5 conversions) NZ Warriors 24 (Montoya 2, Pompey, Barnett tries, Pompey 2 conversions & penalty, Harris-Tavita conversion)