Storm front up ... Melbourne players celebrate victory. Brett Costello
Melbourne Storm defeat Wests Tigers 24-22 to win 2009 Toyota Cup
Melbourne Storm fullback Gareth Widdop clinched the Toyota Cup grand final with a 74th-minute try and conversion that gave his side a 24-22 victory over Wests Tigers.
Widdon finger-nailed a late grubber - his second try of the match - to draw his side level at 22-22 before calmly potting the conversion and delivering the second version of the national under-20 competition to Melbourne.
Tigers coach Grant Jones was far from convinced about Widdon's try, but, with no video referee for available for review, the match-winner was given.
“I didn't have a good look but there was a consensus that that may not have been a try,” Jones said.
The Storm scored four of their five tries in the first half to lead 18-10 at the break, but a burst of two four-pointers in three minutes from the Tigers took the Sydney team to a 22-18 lead after 56 minutes.
The Tigers looked to be coming home with a wet sail before Widdop, who missed three first-half conversions, made the difference in a match where the lead changed five times.
The match became a virtual showdown between the two fullbacks as Wests Tigers try-scoring machine Jake Mullaney took his season tally to 29 tries from 27 games in 2009 with a double of his own.
The speedy Tigers fullback also scored a try on either side of halftime and set up five-eighth Robert Lui's four-pointer for the Tigers' second-half lead.
Melbourne, who finished third in the regular season, had held the ascendancy before that, and led 18-10 at the break with, ironically, Widdop's goal-kicking letting his side down.
The Storm had also been denied three times in the first half, twice with players held up, but scored tries through winger Matt Duffie, lock Billy Rogers, Widdop and centre Justin O'Neill.
Billy Slater clone Widdop, 20, was born in Halifax, England, and came to Australia as a 16-year-old.
“When Gareth takes the field we know exactly what he's going to give us and it's his best every week,” Storm coach Brad Arthur said.
Melbourne halfback and captain Luke Kelly, highly rated by league legend Andrew Johns, won the Jack Gibson Medal as man of the match.
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