AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 22: Billy Slater of the Storm on the charge during the round 19 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium on July 22, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 22: Billy Slater of the Storm on the charge during the round 19 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium on July 22, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Storm grind Warriors down to go top

MELBOURNE Storm have claimed top spot on the NRL ladder after grinding out a 12-6 win over the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.

Joining St George Illawarra and South Sydney on 28 competition points, the reigning premiers now lead the way with the best for and against.

The two-tries-to-one victory was the Storm's seventh on the trot and with six rounds of the regular season remaining they have again emerged as the team to beat in the race for this year's title.

At the start of every season you think they can't keep doing it but they just do.

The win was hardly the Storm's most convincing but they were clinical and they just strangled the Warriors out of the contest.

As usual Cameron Smith orchestrated everything from dummy-half while Jahrome Hughes put his hand up to wear the No.7 jumper on the run to the finals.

The Warriors will be sweating on the fitness of Issac Luke who failed the finish the game because of a calf injury.

The Warriors were just a little off with their execution. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images.
The Warriors were just a little off with their execution. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images.

Luke only managed three runs for 17 metres in the first half and never really looked comfortable.

Craig Bellamy will have his own decisions to make.

Bellamy relegated Brodie Croft back to Queensland Cup for this round while Hughes set up both his tries in the first half.

He threw a lovely no-look ball to put Will Chambers in a hole for the first try in just the third minute.

And then in the final minute before he break Hughes lofted a perfectly weighted chip kick for a flying Suliasi Vunivalu to soar over Ken Maumalo and touch down in the corner to give the Storm an 8-6 lead.

Melbourne are once again on top of the ladder. AAP Image/David Rowland.
Melbourne are once again on top of the ladder. AAP Image/David Rowland.

For most of the opening 40 minutes the Warriors held their own, although playing conservative by their standards.

They had chances to win the game in the second half but their execution failed them.

They put on a typically brilliant try in the 8th minute.

David Fusitu'a climbed over Josh Addo-Carr to latch onto a Shaun Johnson bomb and pop the ball back for Gerard Beale to score.

The Storm tackled their way to victory. Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.
The Storm tackled their way to victory. Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.

Johnson's sideline conversion gave the Warriors a 6-4 lead before Vunivalu's try gave the Storm back the advantage.

Solomone Kata had a try disallowed for a double movement early in the second half.

And when Johnson landed a goal line drop out in touch on the full it handed Cameron Smith a penalty shot in front to extend his team's lead to 10-6.

The Warriors went down swinging. Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.
The Warriors went down swinging. Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.

Hughes had a chance to set up a third try when he sliced through in dying minutes.

But he picked the wrong option when he threw the ball out to Vunivalu instead of back inside for Billy Slater who was in the clear.

Smith slotted another penalty goal after that.

The Storm were lucky not to give up a late penalty that could have proved crucial when Cameron Munster ran a block that denied Fusitu'a's chase on a kick.

The Warriors now take on the Titans next Sunday on the Gold Coast while the Storm play the Raiders on Saturday in Canberra.

MELBOURNE 12 (W Chambers S Vunivalu tries C Smith 2 goals) bt NZ WARRIORS 6 (G Beale try S Johnson goal) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Jon Stone. Crowd: 17,695



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