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Injuries mark Storm’s return to Tigers | Southern Cross


A serious Christian Welch injury headlined a horror night of carnage for Melbourne, but they still managed to maintain their first-round winning streak by beating the Wests Tigers 26-16. Jahrome Hughes played the starring role as the Storm fought back 14-6 midway through the second half to avoid a first-round loss for the first time since 2001. But the win didn’t do much to overshadow a nightmare at CommBank Stadium for the Storm with Welch, George Jennings and Brandon Smith all suffering serious injuries. The tone was set in the first set when Smith suffered a suspected broken hand that will likely rule him out for about a month. Jennings then followed up with what is believed to be a season-ending torn ACL before Welch limped off in the final minutes with fears of an Achilles rupture. Trent Loiero could find himself in trouble for a cannonball tackle that took down Luciano Leilua early in the first half as the Storm striker was lucky not to be sent to the trash can. Without Hughes and a dominant 10-minute second half, the night could have been much worse for Melbourne. The Kiwi halfback had his first big moment in the 58th when he passed five Tigers defenders from 10 yards out to score a brilliant try, the conversion drawing Storm level at 16-16 after an earlier try from Loiero. Hughes was back eight minutes later, dropping from the dummy half in his own side to put Melbourne on the attack. From the very next game, Justin Olam gave Xavier Coates the chance to sensationally score his first try in Melbourne on his 21st birthday to put the Storm ahead. Ryan Papenhuyzen – who was also immense throughout – then finished the job by snatching and offloading in the same play for Reimis Smith to score and seal the game. The Storms’ comeback was a far cry from their first out of jail card played in the first round of a season to keep their streak alive, having fought back 20-4 against Manly in 2014. But it was all the more impressive considering given the absences of Jesse Bromwich, Harry Grant and Cameron Munster, with the trio set to return against South Sydney on Thursday. It also came after they looked something other than the typical storm in the first half, appearing rattled by hooker Smith early and Tyran Wishart thrown in the dummy half. Luke Brooks was particularly impressive for the Tigers in this period as he played with freedom, while youngster Kelma Tuilagi did some damage and Ken Maumalo netted a brace. The trio combined for the first time from the Tigers, when Tuilagi threw a great offload and Brooks helped put Maumalo over the top. Maumalo’s second was also brilliant work from Brooks, who threw a cross kick for his winger and watched the ball be snatched from the hands of Reimis Smith. By then the Tigers were close to being upset, before Melbourne’s class showed in the final 25 minutes. Australian Associated Press