Cameron Munster produced a breathtaking display as Melbourne Storm marked a history-making night with a 32-14 win over gutsy cellar-dweller Gold Coast Titans at AAMI Park on Friday night.
But the returning Brandon Smith will be facing a nervous wait after he was put on report for a hip drop tackle late in the first half.
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With the Storm leading 16-4, Smith, who had been out for the last three matches after he was banned for referee Adam Gee’s “cheating bastard”, landed himself in hot water when making a legs tackle on the Titans’ Tino Fa’ asuamaleaui.
But in a week where the hip drop has been a hot topic after the Broncos’ Patrick Carrigan was banned for four weeks after his tackle saw the Tigers’ Jackson Hastings break his leg.
Unlike a usual hip drop where two players hold a player before the third man attacks the legs, Smith was in motion, slipping off the tackle and onto Fa’asuamaleaui’s leg.
But referee Peter Gough said: “I understand it’s wet and he’s sliding, but what it is, is he throws his legs out which drops the weight on the backfoot.”
Premiership winning coach turned Fox Sports commentator Shane Flanagan wasn’t thrilled with the tackle.
“You can’t do it. You know you can’t put your weight on the back of the legs when a player is going away from you, and he gets himself in a bad position,” Flanagan said.
After the match, Storm coach Craig Bellamy called for the judiciary to look at the incident on its own merits.
“I just hope it gets judged on the tackle, not some of the hysteria that has gone on this week,” Bellamy said.
“That is all we ask.
“If you go on one last week, but how many have there been? If there is one in however many games since the last one.
“Pat Carrigan doesn’t go out on the field to break Hastings’ legs, they are an accident.
“I don’t see it as a real big issue in the game, but I understand that it can injure people, but there hasn’t been a whole heap this year, I don’t think.
“I just hope it gets judged on that and not on it being in the news a lot this week.”
It was otherwise a good night for the Storm as they celebrated Bromwich brothers, captain Jesse (290 games) and fellow forward Kenny (211), became the first pair of brothers in NRL history to combine for 500 games (501) with the one club .
Kenny produced a first half try to make it the perfect start to the night.
But it was hat-trick hero Munster who kickstarted the Storm surge with two first-half tries before adding a third in the second half on a night of brilliance.
Returning to the full back position where he started his career, Munster was safe at the back, dazzled with the extra room to move to rack up 252 run meters and offered tremendous leadership with his voice.
Winger David Nofoaluma, loaned from the Wests Tigers, showed off his speed and elusiveness in an impressive first start with the Storm, while center Young Tonumaipea scored a try in his first game for the Storm since 2018.
Hooker Harry Grant and five-eighth Cooper Johns were also influential for the Storm.
The Storm made a barnstorming start with three tries in the opening 22 minutes.
Xavier Coates, returning from a long term injury, scored one of the easier tries of his career after Grant flicked out a quick pass to find him unattended in the corner.
Munster rose into the night sky to catch, spin and make his way across the line, before Kenny Bromwich got his try burrowing under Titans defenders Phillip Sami and David Fifita.
It would be a horror night for the Titans after hooker Aaron Booth succumbed to a knee injury.
The 26-year-old had to be helped off the ground by the trainers against his former club after his leg collapsed while trying to tackle Johns.