Storm halfback Brodie Croft slotted a shaky match-winner from 35m out, with the ball hitting the upright before going through, to seal a 13-12 win on Thursday night.

The Storm looked headed for just the third back-to-back home losses in the club’s history before the Warriors’ Isaiah Papali’i was penalised for holding down in the play the ball with four minutes remaining.

Third-string goal-kicker Cameron Munster, with Croft and Cameron Smith not kicking due to groin issues, locked up the match at 12-12 with a strike from directly in front.

And then Croft came good when it counted.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said it was a huge effort from his team after a disrupted lead-up in which captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, key playmaker Blake Green and centre Solomone Kata were all ruled out.

“It was a great effort but the game doesn’t always reward effort.

“It’s hard when you work hard like that – we did some good things but were not quite good enough.”

Looking spent from the grand final rematch, the Storm struggled to find any rhythm while the understrength Warriors looked hungry for a win.

In stark contrast to last year’s 36-0 scoreline, the Storm trailed the visitors 8-4 at halftime, continuing their worrying trend of slow starts.

They hit the front three minutes into the second half when Smith showed his vision and class to put through a grubber for fullback Jahrome Hughes, who crashed over the line.

However, their lead only lasted four minutes before the Warriors were in front again, with the Storm defence caught short thanks to winger Suliasi Vunivalu rushing out of the line.

Peta Hiku spotted the overlap and sent a long ball out to Ken Maumalo to touch down.

Melbourne’s only try of the first half was started and finished by Munster.

The five-eighth kicked cross-field to Josh Addo-Carr, with the winger batting it back across into the arms of Munster, who closed the gap to 8-4.

The Warriors continued to chance their arm while the Storm fumbled around, uncharacteristically falling off tackles and dropping balls.

But they did enough to keep in touch with the Warriors, who have now lost three straight.

Kata’s replacement, Patrick Herbert, impressed on debut.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy was pleased his team found a way to win despite the game not going their way, unlike last week’s golden point loss to the Sydney Roosters.

“The Warriors were really gutsy but I’ll give our guys some credit for hanging in there even though we weren’t playing our best.

“The Warriors did a real good job of disrupting that.”

Bellamy said his team had practised their options should it come down the death after falling short last round.

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