NRL round five: MELBOURNE 26 WESTS TIGERS 12 at AAMI Park

By STEVE MASCORD

WESTS Tigers star Benji Marshall left AAMI Park after Monday night’s loss to Melbourne in a surgical boot and is likely to be sidelined for weeks.

Marshall suffered the injury in the first 20 minutes of the 26-12 loss and battled on, scoring the try that put his side in front for the second time.

‘‘It’s a toe injury, as you can see he’s in a boot and going to have scans,’’ Tigers CEO Stephen Humphreys told Fairfax Media.

‘‘At the moment it looks like he’s going to have some weeks on the sideline.’’

Melbourne found it unexpectedly difficult to secure a club-record 13th consecutive win – but the National Rugby League may have found its’ latest rules controversy.
Given little chance of interrupting the world champions’ eight-match unbeaten home run, Mick Potter’s side led early and regained the lead midway through the second half of their 26-12 loss at AAMI Park last night.

A one-two punch from Mahe Fonua and Cooper Cronk ended the brave showing from the visitors but a controversial incident in the 46th minute when Wests Tigers replacement Eddy Pettybourne had a try chalked off under a “driver” is sure to create some debate.

Pettybourne’s teammate, Ben Murdoch-Masila, was found to have illegally interfered with rival Siosaia Vave as Pettybourne strugged with a phalanx of defenders before safely grounding the ball.

‘‘I got it down but they said you’re not allowed to push. I reckon it was harsh.  It changed the game, it’s something they’ve got to look at,’’ Pettybourne said.

But replays suggested Murdoch-Masila merely touched Vave. “You can push your teammate,” Robbie Farah said to referee Adam Gee, who spotted the illegality live.

“You simply can’t touch an opponent,” Gee responded. “That’s what we’ve found.”

Wests Tigers regained the lead 12 minutes into the second half just moments after Pettybourne had his try disallowed.

Captain Robbie Farah bombed into the north-eastern corner, replacement Murdoch-Masila flew high and tapped the ball down to Marshall who plunged over despite a nagging toe problem.

The final pass looked forward but referee Jason Robinson gave the touchdown without referring it upstairs. Makeshift halfback Braith Anasta’s conversion was good despite the difficult angle.

When Melbourne got their chance, they took it.

Firstly, Slater threw a pinpoint cutout pass for Victorian product Fonua to score in the corner, with captain Cameron Smith goaling from the sideline, in the 62nd minute.

Three minutes later Storm centre Will Chambers burst into the clear and positioned halfback Cronk for the final pass to give the home team the lead.

Earlier, Wests Tigers shocked the Storm by taking an early lead with a try to young winger James Tedesco.

Farah grubber-kicked into the south-eastern corner and Tedesco found himself an unimpeded passage down the flank to score.

The joint venture side had given an early indication it meant business, pinning Billy Slater in goal with a determined chase in the fourth minute.

Rival fullback Tim Moltzen spilt a bomb not long afterwards but Melbourne failed to capitalise and late Melbourne inclusion Sisa Waqa put Slater away in the 14th minute only for play to be called back when the match officials detected the No.1 had shoved Braith Anasta in backplay.

The decisive call of the first half was actually two decisive calls. Whistler Jason Robinson at first appeared to ping Wests Tigers’ Bodene Thompson for diving at the legs of Gareth Widdop after a kick.

But in fact, Robinson meant to penalise Storm chasers for being in front of Widdop and eventually stuck his hand up in the other direction.

A minute later came Tedesco’s try, which went unconverted.

Melbourne eschewed a penalty shot almost in front when Aaron Woods took Jason Ryles high on the half hour – an opportunity Anasta accepted three minutes later at the other end for 6-0.

Wests Tigers were penalised three consecutive times defending their line as halftime neared. “Every time we get down here, you try to slow it down,” Robinson told Farah.

The Storm eventually made Wests Tigers pay for their insubordination, replacement forward Siosia vave crashing over just short of halftime and Cameron Smith leveling the ledger at 6-6.

Wests Tigers’ Adam Blair was booked for lifting the leg of an opponent in a tackle at the 60 minute mark.

Waqa scored for Melbourne in the dying minutes.

MELBOURNE 26 (S vave M Fonua C Cronk tries C Smith 3 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 12 (J Tedesco B Marshall tries B Anasta 2 goal) bt at AAMI Park. Referees: J Robinson/A Gee. Crowd: 18,860

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