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Hughes, Grant star as Storm make big statement against Eels


Kelsey Hogan, NRL Reporter

With Grant bagging a double off some brilliant running from the ruck and Hughes chalking five assists, three line breaks and a try of his own, the Melbourne duo controlled proceedings at Marvel Stadium after being upset by the Knights in Newcastle last week.

Buoyed by the occasion of Old Boys' Day, Craig Bellamy's side well and truly staked their claim as 2023 premiership contenders, putting last year's grand finalists to the sword at home and securing their place in the top four.

The Eels struck the first blow in the fifth minute with Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson combining with a slick play to put winger Sean Russell through with an acrobatic finish in the corner. 

But after 12 minutes Grant took matters into his hands and went back-to-back, scooting from dummy-half to score in the 11th minute before combining with Hughes from close range in the 22nd minute and put the home side out to a 12-4 lead. 

Come the 27th minute, momentum was all behind the Storm and Grant returned the favour for his halfback, scooting from dummy-half to split the Eels markers and passing across the grain to Hughes who sliced through the line and ran 30m to score next to the uprights.  

Eels forward J'maine Hopgood got one back for the visitors in the 32nd minute, receiving a no-look pass from Eels utility Ryan Matterson before carrying Nick Meaney and Eliesa Katoa over the line to score. Moses' conversion reduced the deficit to ten.

But just two minutes before the buzzer the Storm restored some breathing room when Hughes bagged his second assist for the night, putting Katoa through with a short ball from close range and the Storm took a threatening 24-10 win into the sheds. 

Three minutes after halftime and Melbourne had Brad Arthur shaking his head when Grant and Hughes continued their masterclass, combining again to put Josh King to cross under the sticks. 

Come the 58th minute and Hughes was starting to show off in front of the old boys in the stands, with an impressive line-break carrying the home side downfield and the halfback put Marion Seve through on the next play. Meaney's conversion made it 36-10.

Sticking to their guns, Luca Moretti dived over to score his first NRL try in the 63rd minute but it was all too little too late for the visitors.

The Storm put the finishing touches on the victory when Cameron Munster got in on the action in the 67th minute, darting and weaving his way through Eels defenders to score before Hughes put an exclamation mark on a dominant performance when he set up Will Warbrick for Melbourne's eighth try of the night.

Match Snapshot 

  • The Eels are leading the competition in offloads but Storm outscored them in this department in the first-half, with 10 offloads compared to the Eels five.
  • The Storm have won seven of their past eight games in Melbourne.
  • Storm hooker Harry Grant was at his elusive best, with five tackle breaks and two line breaks to go with his first half double.
  • Eels skipper Clint Gutherson made 170 metres off 17 runs and broke three tackles.
  • Forward J'maine Hopgood was relentless in the middle for the Eels with 110 run metres and 58 tackles.
  • Brad Arthur reached the milestone of 250 games as Parramatta coach.
  • The Storm have won four of their past five games against the Eels in Melbourne.
  • The Storm celebrated their 25-year anniversary, welcoming back former players for the Round 22 match.

Play of the Game 
Jahrome Hughes' 27th minute try summed up his brilliant partnership with Harry Grant on Friday night with the Storm seniors controlling proceedings at Marvel Stadium on Friday. Grant turned provider when scooted out from dummy-half,  splitting the Eels markers when he passed across the grain to create space for Hughes on the right. Hughes proved he could do it all, darting and weaving his way through Parramatta defenders before racing to the line to score a four-pointer to go with his four assists. 

What They Said 
"I don't think we handled the speed of what they played at and the physicality of what they played. Everything was too quick for us. We were standing still on the try line and they just carried us over the line. It's hurt us but at the end of the day we've got enough games left and we've just got to focus on next week but it's still in our hands." - Eels coach Brad Arthur

"Just a win tonight is what we were after. We didn't want to be moping around after a loss with an occasion like this. It was nice to get a win but it was even nicer to play better and more consistently. I thought Parramatta out-aggressed us early on but to our guys credit they steadied the ship and we got out in front. But the second half we really controlled the pace of the game and back to doing what we know works for us so that was very pleasing. We just need to make sure we don't lose our way after tonight." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy

What's Next 
The Storm travel to Penrith to take on the Panthers on Friday night while the Eels host the Dragons at CommBank on Sunday.

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