The Melbourne Storm have come away with a dominant 32-14 win against the Titans off the back of a huge performance from Cameron Munster.
The Maroons star was shifted to fullback in a late switch from Craig Bellamy, which proved to be a masterstroke after the playmaker scored his second career hattrick.
Harry Grant’s vision opened the scoring for Melbourne, finding winger Xavier Coates in space to score untouched.
MATCH CENTRE: Melbourne Storm vs Gold Coast Titans, live scores, teams
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Only moments later, Munster scored his first, flying high to reel in a Jahrome Hughes kick as the Storm piled on the points.
“This is ominous,” Dan Ginnane said as Melbourne held a 10-point lead.
But Holbrook’s men were able to hit back with two quickfire tries to Beau Fermor and Herman Ese’ese.
“What is going on?” Dan Ginnane said.
“It hasn’t been fancy but it has been strong and powerful from the Titans,” Shane Flanagan said.
But just before halftime, Munster crossed again, dancing past Gold Coast’s left-side defense.
After halftime, AJ Brimson put in a pinpoint kick for Brian Kelly to cross but their joy would end there, with Munster scoring his third to assert dominance.
“He makes it look effortless, second hattrick of his career and a timely one,” Dan Ginnane.
Young Tonumaipea also scored a late try off the back of a scrum after a 1,483-day hiatus from the NRL.
Jahrome Hughes also remained off the field after halftime after suffering a shoulder injury.
Read below for the three big takeaways from Friday night’s clash!
Storm coach Craig Bellamy pulled a huge late switch, moving star playmaker Cameron Munster to fullback — and it proved a masterstroke.
The 27-year-old kicked off his first grade career at fullback, but last played in the No.1 jersey way back in 2018.
Fox League’s Shane Flanagan explained Munster would enjoy the “challenge” of switching positions early in the contest.
“Played plenty of fullback as a youngster, last time he played there was 2018,” Flanagan said.
“I think he will like the challenge of fullback, I don’t think he will want to play it all the time, but even if it is for the rest of the season he will enjoy that opportunity.
“He will get to touch the football on both sides of the field and won’t be locked in… he is a class act and he is enjoying his footy.”
Not only did Munster enjoy the challenge, he excelled – scoring his second career hattrick to down Justin Holbrook’s Titans.
The 27-year-old finished with three tries, 158 running meters, eight tackle breaks, two line breaks and a line break assist.
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JOHNS STAMPS HIS CLAIM
Having made only eight NRL appearances in his three-year career, Cooper Johns was slotted into the five-eighth role after Munster’s late switch.
The 23-year-old delivered an impressive performance and could find himself in the halves for the remainder of the year.
Regular halfback Jahrome Hughes stayed off the field at halftime after suffering a shoulder injury, with the extent of the blow currently unknown.
Johns could slot into the No.7 role to pair Cameron Munster who will likely take over the five-eighth jersey next week.
“Cooper Johns, he has been fantastic feeding the football to their main man,” Shane Flanagan said.
Johns finished the night with three try assists and four line break assists, as well as three tackle breaks.
Interestingly, in his eight games prior Johns had recorded only two try assists but has now shown his playmaking prowess.
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Titans star AJ Brimson has had a turbulent year, shifting from fullback to the halves in pre-season, before being moved back to the No.1, and then into the halves again.
“It has been an interesting year for AJ Brimson, he started in the halves, this is all to accommodate Jayden Campbell, but with Campbell out a bit of fullback for Brimson,”
“But back now in the halves role.”
While many players would struggle to find their groove, Brimson looked consistently dangerous against the Storm.
The 23-year-old recorded two try assists, one linebreak, one linebreak assists and three tackle breaks in a strong showing – despite his side losing.
Fox League’s Shane Flanagan labeled Brimson’s try assist for center Brian Kelly as “beautiful”.
“The Titans are outstanding at this type of play,” Flanagan said.
“AJ Brimson gets the ball and knows he has two players screaming onto the ball, it is just beautiful and well times.”
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