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Sea Eagles go down to Storm in finals opener

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 40-12 loss to minor premiers Melbourne Storm at Sunshine Coast Stadium tonight in the opening match of the Telstra Premiership Finals.

The Sea Eagles got off to a poor start and a mistake riddled first half saw them  trail by 18 points at half-time.

With the Storm moving into the preliminary final, the fourth-placed Sea Eagles now face a sudden death match at BB Print Stadium, Mackay, next weekend against the winner of tomorrow's elimination game between the Sydney Roosters and the Gold Coast Titans.

The Sea Eagles lost hooker Lachlan Croker with back tightness yesterday with Karl Lawton coming into the starting side. 

Melbourne opened the scoring in the second minute when winger Isaac Lumelume swooped on a drop ball from centre Morgan Harper. Full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen converted for a 6-0 lead.

The Storm struck again seven minutes later through second-rower Kenneath Bromwich as the Sea Eagles were unfortunate in their attempt to stop him, with the decision being sent upstairs to check for double movement. Papenhuyzen failed to convert for a 10-0 lead.

The Storm were awarded a penalty inside the ten metres for interference in the ruck and proceeded to score in the 13th minute through prop Christian Welch. Papenhuyzen made the conversion for a 16-0 scoreline.

Manly had their first real chance in the 20th minute and pushed downfield into Melbourne’s 20 metre line, with utility Dylan Walker making a big break in play in one of his first runs.

The Storm then converted a penalty goal through Papenhuyzen for an 18-0 lead.

Manly were awarded three penalties in a matter of minutes deep inside Melbourne’s half, ultimately being rewarded with a try in the 30th minute.

Winger Jason Saab scored his 24th try of the season after leaping above his opposing winger to grab the ball off a Daly Cherry-Evans kick. Winger Reuben Garrick converted from out wide for an 18-6 scoreline.

The Storm dived over for their fourth try on the stroke of half-time through Papenhuyzen as he slipped through the defence. He converted his own try for a 24-6 lead at the break with Melbourne scoring three of their tries off Manly mistakes.

The Storm scored the first try of the second half four minutes in through Papenhuyzen. He converted his own try to take the score out to 30-6. 

Seven minutes later at the start of a seven tackle set, Manly struck for their second try of the match, again through Saab. Right from the 20 metre tap, Garrick sent the ball downfield with a massive kick that looked to have been covered by Lumelume.

Despite this, Saab still chased and put pressure on which eventually brought him his second try. The Melbourne winger was unable to hold onto the ball as he bent down to pick it up, spilling it back towards his tryline.

Saab scooped up the ball and dived over to cap off a miraculous play. After setting up the try, Garrick made the conversion to bring the score to 30-12.

Melbourne were forced into another scramble on their right edge as the Sea Eagles continued to build some momentum.

A smart offload from centre Morgan Harper freed up some space in the middle of the field before the ball was shifted to the left, where ‘Turbo’ and Garrick were unable to combine as the ball was taken out.

Three minutes later at the opposite end of the field, Melbourne were awarded a penalty in front of the posts for a 32-12 lead.

The Storm scored the final try when centre Justin Olam scored out wide. Papenhuyzen converted for the 38-12 scoreline.

Papenhuyzen then kicked a two point field goal from 41 metres out for the 40-12 victory.