The Wests Tigers have made it seven wins on the trot with a gritty 10-6 triumph over an undermanned Melbourne Storm at a wet AAMI Park on Friday night.
Despite dominating the majority of the match, it was not until the Tigers scored two tries in a 10-minute period at the start of the second half that they really took control of the contest against a Storm side missing their Origin stars.
Lote Tuqiri broke the 2-2 half-time deadlock with the opening try of the night in Melbourne and when Matt Utai scored minutes later the Tigers were eight points in front with a little over half an hour remaining.
Dane Nielsen gave the visitors a few nervous moments when he touched down late in the contest to reduce the margin to four, but the absence of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater proved too much for the ladder leaders as the Tigers held firm in the closing stages to maintain their recent good run of form.
The victory moves the Tigers up to third and equal on points with the second-placed Broncos, while Storm remain three wins clear at the head of the table.
The Tigers suffered a big blow before kickoff when regular full-back Tim Moltzen injured himself in the warm-up, but that did not stop the visitors from starting on the front foot and putting pressure on the Storm line.
Skipper Benji Marshall picked up a 40-20 with a delightful kick that skidded across the greasy surface and from the ensuing play the Tigers star put the opening points on the board with a penalty goal.
The Tigers continued to pile on the pressure and could have easily scored the first try of the night on several occasions inside the opening 20 minutes, but Storm's defence was first class close to the goal line.
Anthony Quinn was leading by example in defence, while Justin O'Neill denied a rampaging Tuqiri a certain try as the Tigers looked the team most likely to put points on the board.
Forays at the right end of the field for Storm were few and far between and when they did get into good attacking positions they lacked direction on the final tackle and often took the wrong option.
Yet they trailed by just two with the break closing in and drew level on the half-time siren when they were gifted two points by the Tigers.
Marshall inexplicably decided to kick short from a goal-line dropout and on the final play of the half Beau Ryan was penalised on the last line of defence, leaving Gareth Widdop a simple kick to square the ledger.
Any momentum Storm had heading into the second half was quickly erased as the Tigers helped themselves to two tries within 10 minutes of the restart to take charge.
Tuqiri was the benefactor of some swift ball movement by Marshall and Chris Lawrence as he helped himself to the opening try of the contest, while Utai beat some non-existent Storm defence out wide on the right moments later, as the visitors quickly opened up an eight-point lead.
Storm tried to fight back, but errors were proving costly and none more so than when they lost a scrum in good attacking position despite providing the feed.
The hosts started to look a bit better as the match headed into its final 20 minutes, but persistent rain and some excellent defence from the Tigers gave Storm little reward.
There was a glimmer of hope for Storm when Nielsen finished off some good work by his team-mates out wide with 10 minutes remaining, but that was as close as they could get, as the more experienced Tigers held on for the points.
Melbourne Storm 6
Wests Tigers 10
Tries: Tuqiri, Utai
Crowd: 11,274 @AAMI Park