While the NRL is on COVID-19 hiatus, WILL EVANS is reliving some of the premiership’s most notable thrillers and unlikely comebacks that saw punters triumph over the bookies. In lieu of the Storm-Warriors clash that was originally scheduled to take place this weekend, relive one of the most memorable Anzac Day showdowns of recent years. 

The traditional Anzac Day clash between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors shaped as one of the most lopsided of genre in 2019.

Two of the previous three AAMI Park meetings between the clubs resulted in Storm victories by 40-plus margins. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ lead-in to one of the NRL’s toughest assignments was diabolical.

Already behind the eight-ball after a 2-4 start to the season, the Warriors headed to Melbourne without key trio Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green and David Fusitu’a. The Warriors opened as $4.60 underdogs but blew out to $7.10 as the casualty ward news snowballed.

The Storm were 5-1, with their only loss a 21-20 result in the NRL grand final replay against the Roosters a week earlier. Punters who backed the perennial heavyweights in to $1.10 could not have been more confident of getting the cash.

Warriors race out of the gates

But the enigmatic Warriors showed their intentions early. Tohu Harris – named in the halves alongside rookie Chanel Harris-Tavita – sent maligned forward Adam Blair over for the opening try and an 8-0 lead inside 10 minutes.

A fortuitous try to Cameron Munster from a deflected bomb got the Storm back to within four points by halftime.

Normal transmission seemed set to resume when fullback Jahrome Hughes crossed from a Cameron Smith kick just two minutes into the second stanza.

But the Warriors were determined to make the punters sweat.

The rank outsiders reclaimed the lead in the 48th minute after fullback stand-in Peta Hiku’s brilliant pass allowed big winger Ken Maumalo to stroll in.

The ragtag Warriors defended grimly for the ensuing 25 minutes. Their commitment was best summed up by debutant centre Patrick Herbert, whose terrier-like performance to shut down Storm veteran Will Chambers earned widespread praise.

Storm get out of jail

But the match swung on a highly controversial refereeing call. What seemed like a blunder at the play-the-ball from Storm hulk Nelson Asofa-Solomona instead resulted in a farcical penalty to the hosts.

Munster levelled the scores with a straightforward goal with four minutes left.

Punters who took the generous 18-point start were already counting their collects. But the Storm saved head-to-head bettors with a dagger for Warriors fans. Brodie Croft drilled a 32-metre field goal at the end of the next set to seal a shaky 13-12 win.

The undermanned Warriors received overwhelming sympathy as unlucky losers. The decisive ruck penalty was one of many 50/50 calls that went the Storm’s way.

But is was not a portent of a turnaround for the Auckland-based club. A $21 chance to take out the title at the start of 2019, the Warriors won consecutive games just once and finished 13th.

The Storm surged to yet another minor premiership but fell just short of a fourth straight grand final appearance.

Unsurprisingly, the teams are at opposite ends of the premiership betting scale as the NRL prepares to resume on May 28.

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