Storm break Tigers hearts with last-minute winner
CAMERON Smith likened it to an escape from "Alcatraz".
And the Wests Tigers are entitled to wake up and wonder how the hell it happened after having their hearts broken not once, but twice.
In a stunning finish after the Tigers had been the better side for almost the entire match, the Storm charged back with two late tries securing a heart-stopping 24-22 victory.
Making it worse for the Tigers and their fans was the brilliance of one of their former young guns who came back to haunt them.
Rookie sensation Ryan Papenhuyzen produced a marvellous man-of-the-match performance that included a stunning 87m solo try that reminded Smith of "a young Billy Slater".
TIGERS HEARTS CRUSHED
The Tigers played with tremendous composure and belief, and were led superbly by their veterans Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall.
They jumped to a 12-8 halftime lead that was extended to 22-14 heading into the final quarter.
Farah's service from dummy half was top notch, while Marshall produced a wonderful flat ball to send Esan Marsters over for a crucial try in the 55th minute.
Luke Brooks was also outstanding, scoring a well-deserved try just after halftime.
But just when the Storm looked gone, they found a way to victory.
Marlon Seve touched down on the back of a Tigers mistake, before Smith calmly slotted a near-sideline conversion to bring the margin back to two points.
Then with less than three minutes remaining Will Chambers busted through with a determined charge to clinch a remarkable victory.
Asked if the Storm had got out of jail, Smith responded: "More like out of Alcatraz. It was the impossible for us. To be honest, we didn't look like winning until the last two minutes. But it was great to see the effort again and the fight to stay in the game."
Every now and then a rugby league rookie arrives that just makes us all immediately stand up and take notice.
In recent years we've been lucky enough to see the emergence of the likes of Kalyn Ponga, James Tedesco and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Now you can add Papenhuyzen to the list.
After starting the season as Melbourne's third choice fullback, the former Tigers junior produced an extraordinary performance that led Smith to declare on Channel Nine: "He reminds me of a young Billy Slater to be honest."
This was Papenhuyzen's first start in the No 1 jersey Slater made famous, and the 20-year-old flying machine brought the game to life with a stunning show of speed in the 27th minute.
With nothing doing as Papenhuyzen took a run from near his own tryline, he blasted past Farah and Brooks before running 87m to score.
Papenhuyzen clocked up 150m by halftime, finishing with 241m.
"He is about 80kg wringing wet but all he needs is a sniff of space and he is away," Smith continued.
"We saw it last week (when he came off the bench in the big win over Parramatta) and we saw it tonight.
"He beat a two-man tackle and ran almost the length.
"His positioning was outstanding and his talk at the back was really good directing our defence.
"But the one thing I love about Paps is that he has been very patient this year. He has been 18th man early on. He has had a couple of starts off the bench. But he has just plugged away."
Papenhuyzen explained: "I thought my debut was surreal but this was another level. It was a pretty crazy feeling. I didn't expect this."
GIVE REFS A RAP
It's never easy for the refs when they line up against the might of Melbourne and particularly Smith.
But on a tough night the match officials did a good job putting the Storm in their place with eight first half penalties as the Storm constantly attempted to slow down the ruck.
The Bunker also made the correct call on an on field "not try" decision for obstruction that was overturned to give a try to Josh Aloiai.
MELBOURNE 24 (W Chambers F Kaufusi R Papenhuyzen M Seve tries C Smith 4 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 22 (J Aloiai L Brooks E Marsters tries E Marsters 5 goals) at AAMI Park. Referee: Gavin Badger, Adam Gee. Crowd: 11,402