Melbourne Storm beat Leeds for world title

JOHN MARSH
Last updated 11:14 23/02/2013
Tohu Harris
Getty Images
TRY TIME: Hawke's Bay product Tohu Harris scored on debut for the Storm.

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Melbourne reclaimed another trophy that was stripped from them for salary cap abuse, with a gripping 18-14 World Club Challenge (WCC) victory over Leeds in which 21-year-old Tohu Harris scored on debut.

It was 8-8 at halftime in front of a capacity 20,400 crowd at Headingley, before the Storm posted consecutive tries to streak away, the Rhinos hit back and the contest hung in the balance for the final 26 minutes.

The Storm beat Leeds for the 2010 world title but it was taken off them later that year as part of the punishment for deliberately rorting the cap.

A slick pass from halfback Cooper Cronk put Ryan Hoffman through in the 20th minute, with fullback Billy Salter backing up for the first try of the match. A Cameron Smith conversion and penalty goal gave Melbourne an 8-0 advantage.

Leeds managed to pierce the much-praised Storm defence on several occasions in the first half but play repeatedly broke down. However, a last-tackle attacking raid in the 29th minute put England winger Ryan Hall over in the left corner, to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Golden Boot winner Kevin Sinfield converted from the sideline and added a penalty goal after the halftime siren to tie up an entertaining, free-wheeling contest 8-8 at the break.

There were more points in the opening quarter-hour of the second half than the entire first half.

Storm prop Jesse Bromwich trundled up the ball in the 44th minute and promptly beat four defenders to crash over next to the posts, with captain Smith converting.

Craig Bellamy's men then seemed to take control with another touchdown shortly after the resumption of play. A sweeping 50-metre movement finished with Harris roaring into the clear, passing to Will Chambers with winger Sisa Waqa hemmed in by defence on the right side.

Waqa found Chambers in support and the rookie dived over for the try of the match.

Down 18-8, Leeds responded with a special try of their own. Captain Sinfield kicked to the left, Ryan Hall claimed the ball and passed to Joel Moon. The centre then lobbed a miraculous pass infield to second-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan who scored.

With 10 minutes left, the Storm appeared to have wrapped up victory when winger Mahe Fonua scored - but referee Ben Thaler ruled forward the final pass from centre Justin O'Neill.

It was the 13th and possibly final WCC held in the UK before the game returns to Australia next year.     

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Melbourne 18 (B Slater J Bromwich T Harris tries C Smith 3 goals) bt Leeds 14 (R Hall J Jones-Buchanan tries K Sinfield 3 goals) at Headingley.

- AAP

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