Billy Slater double takes Storm past Rabbitohs
Billy Slater has found form at exactly the right time, a week before the State of Origin period begins, after starring in Melbourne's 27-14 NRL win over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday.
The Storm and Queensland No 1 has struggled early in 2014 but enjoyed his best game of the season in the tough win over the Rabbitohs.
Slater scored the game's opening try in just the fourth minute, when he chased down a Cooper Cronk kick, as the Storm built to a 20-4 halftime lead.
The Rabbitohs fought their way back after the break to 20-14 on the back of tries to Adam Reynolds, after John Sutton stepped through the Storm line and offloaded, and Alex Johnston, who scored his second try of the evening following some speedy leadup work from Dylan Walker.
But Slater stepped up to the mark and raced 45m for a four-pointer to put the Storm 12 points clear in the 57th minute.
A Cooper Cronk field goal sealed the win for the visitors in the 74th minute.
Both NSW and Queensland go into camp next week ahead of the State of Origin opener in Brisbane on May 28 with the Storm's 'Big Three' of Slater, Cronk and Cameron Smith all impressive in Melbourne's victory.
Cronk forced his way over in the 25th minute, after a clever run around, and Sisa Waqa scored on the stroke of halftime after a lovely ball from centre Will Chambers.
Johnston barged his way over in the 31st minute for Souths' only first half points.
Souths turned things around after the break led by a barnstorming display from five-eighth John Sutton who did his NSW selection chances no harm.
Coach Craig Bellamy labelled the round 10 win before 18,508 fans their best of the year in his 300th game as clipboard holder.
"It was our best performance by far," Bellamy said.
"Our defence led the way which is the way we like to play.
"Everyone put a really big performance in tonight.
"It is humbling to see the effort they put in.
"That was a step forward for us."
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire lamented the first-half lead his side allowed the Storm.
"You can't give a team like the Melbourne Storm that sort of start," he said.
"The precision of our play wasn't the best.
"We never gave ourselves a chance to play the way they played."
Melbourne Storm 27 (B Slater 2 C Cronk S Waqa tries C Smith 5 goals C Cronk field goal) South Sydney Rabbitohs 14 (A Johnston 2 A Reynolds tries A Reynolds goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 18,508