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Injuries mar Storm comeback over Tigers

Melbourne fear the NRL seasons of Christian Welch and George Jennings are over after they escaped from a horror night with a come-from-behind 26-16 win over Wests Tigers.

In a brutal start to the season for the Storm, Welch suffered a suspected ruptured achilles and Jennings a torn ACL which will leave both battling to play again this year.

Brandon Smith broke his arm in the first set of the match and is set to spend at least a month out, while Trent Loiero was placed on report for an ugly cannonball tackle.

It could have been much worse for the Storm at CommBank Stadium if not for 10 scintillating minutes from Jahrome Hughes that turned the game on its head.

The Kiwi halfback had his first big moment in the 58th when he stepped past five Tigers defenders from 10 metres out to score a brilliant try, with the conversion drawing the Storm level at 16-16 after an earlier Loiero try.

Hughes was at it again eight minutes later, breaking through from dummy-half out of his own end to put Melbourne on the attack.

From the next play Justin Olam put Xavier Coates clear to sensationally score his first Melbourne try on his 21st birthday to give the Storm the lead.

Ryan Papenhuyzen — who was immense throughout — then finished the job by grubbering and offloading in the same play for Reimis Smith to score and seal the match.

The costly win kept alive one of the NRL’s greatest streaks, with the Storm unbeaten in round-one matches since 2001.

This was arguably their most impressive with Jesse Bromwich, Harry Grant and Cameron Munster all out and due to return on Thursday against South Sydney.

“I can’t remember an effort as brave as it and I am really, really proud of them,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“You have a look at the stats in the first half and we should have been 20 down.

“It’s really disappointing for George and certainly Christian. He’s had a few tough times now and doesn’t deserve that.

“It kills us … (They) will miss basically the season.

“We should be so happy and jumping out of our skins,but we feel so down for the two guys that have those serious injuries.”

The injuries meant Tyran Wishart played virtually the whole game at dummy-half for the Storm, while Alec MacDonald had eight runs in his first senior match.

The Tigers were, meanwhile, left to rue a missed chance.

Luke Brooks was particularly impressive when the Tigers dominated in the first half as he played with freedom, while youngster Kelma Tuilagi was damaging and Ken Maumalo bagged a double.

The trio combined for the Tigers’ first, when Tuilagi threw a great offload and Brooks helped put Maumalo over.

Maumalo’s second was also a brilliant piece of work from Brooks, who kicked cross-field for his winger and watched the ball be snatched out of Reimis Smith’s hands.

“We actually played some football and some good passages of play,” Tigers coach Michael Maguire said.

“It’s about trying to do that for an 80 minute period… In the second half we just made it hard for ourselves.”

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