Billy's back: Slater sparkles in Storm victory
THERE is a reason Brookvale Oval has been renamed Lottoland - Manly have no luck at home.
Thanks to a scintillating double from winger Suliasi Vunivulu, a far from perfect Melbourne side held on to record a hard fought 30-26 victory over the Sea Eagles on Saturday.
Manly have now lost consecutive matches at Brookvale, meaning they have claimed just four wins at their one-time Fortress in the past 15 months.
The Sea Eagles, though, deserve huge praise for refusing to give up despite trailing 18-0 after as many minutes in the first half.
They also trailed 30-16 at halftime.
But in a week when the club celebrated 70 years since its first premiership match, it was only fitting Manly delivered the type of fight to make their forefathers proud.
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans was particularly inspirational, shrugging off a shoulder injury in the first half to bravely play on and lead his side.
It was Melbourne, though, who held on to claim an unconvincing win in a remarkable match where 11 tries were scored.
Vunivalu continued his rich vein of form at Brookvale with two tries and a try assist.
The Fijian flyer clearly likes playing against Manly. The last time he played the Sea Eagles in round 24 last season he scored four tries in the first half.
Underrated back-rower Felise Kaufusi also contributed heavily with two tries to prove his value to the Storm.
But in the end it was Melbourne's ageless stars that proved the difference.
Storm skipper Cameron Smith was at his composed best in the big moments, while fullback Billy Slater looked dangerous every time he touched the football.
The champion fullback turned back the clock to produce his trademark speed and skill to prove he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
There's no doubting Slater has the ability to play beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the season.
Manly had the worst possible start to the match when Dylan Walker's kick-off went out on the full.
This paved the way for Melbourne to open the scoring after 70 seconds through Vunivalu.
The Storm were clearly on top and extended their lead seven minutes later via centre Young Tonumaipea.
Manly simply had no answers for Melbourne's big men and the blistering speed of Slater, who looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
Cronk then lit up Brookvale Oval with a pinpoint kick for Vunivalu to grab his second try with a brilliant AFL-style leap.
The classic catch, that Buddy Franklin would be proud of, helped the Storm surge to a commanding 14-0 lead.
Melbourne did not score a point in the second half.
Vunivalu was in the action again three minutes later, making a break and passing for winger Josh Addo-Carr to score.
To Manly's credit they didn't give up and surged back into the contest with tries through Jorge Taufua and Frank Winterstein.
In true Melbourne fashion, though, the Storm regained control with two tries to lead 30-12.
Rookie Manly centre Brian Kelly crossed on the stroke of halftime to cap off a crazy first half with a whopping 46 points scored.
The Sea Eagles fed off this momentum to surge back into the contest in the second half courtesy of tries to forwards Jake Trbojevic and Brenton Lawrence to get within four points, but it was the Storm who held on in a cliffhanger.