Melbourne weather Manly storm, Dragons hold off Cowboys to stay top


Suliasi Vunivalu and Felise Kaufusi scored doubles as Melbourne Storm withstood a Manly Sea Eagles fightback to win an NRL thriller 30-26 and St George Illawarra Dragons responded by beating North Queensland Cowboys to stay top.

The Storm looked set to canter to a sixth victory out of seven when they led a try-fest at Lottoland 30-16 at half-time, but last year's defeated Grand Finalists were given a huge scare by their fierce rivals.

Melbourne were 18-0 up less than midway through the first half courtesy of Vunivalu brace, a Young Tonumaipea four-pointer and another from Josh Addo-Carr, with Billy Slater catching the eye.

Kaufusi went over twice in quick succession prior to the interval and Cameron Smith converted on three occasions, but scores from Frank Winterstein, Jorge Taufua, Brian Kelly kept Manly in it.

Tom Trbojevic powered his way over before Brenton Lawrence's converted score reduced the gap to four points with 14 minutes to play. However, Craig Bellamy's men held on after losing their unbeaten record against Cronulla Sharks last weekend.

The in-form Dragons are level on points with Melbourne, but they were also made to work for a 28-22 success against the injury-hit Cowboys.

North Queensland looked in danger of suffering a hiding in the absence of injured captain Johnathan Thurston when they trailed 28-4 at the end of a one-sided first half at WIN Stadium.

Tim Lafai scored a pair of first half tries, while captain Gareth Widdop, Kurt Mann and Nene Macdonald also went over for the rampant Dragons prior to the break.

The 2015 champions made a game of it, though, with John Asiata impressing at half-back in place of Thurston. Ben Spina, Michael Morgan and Scott Bolton crossed the whitewash, but the Dragons were not to be denied and lead Melbourne on points difference.

Canberra Raiders sit fourth after coming from 8-6 down at the interval to beat New Zealand Warriors 20-8, Joey Leilua scoring a try in each half at GIO Stadium.