The Storm have continued St George Illawarra’s misery in Melbourne by scrambling to a 18-16 win to wrap up round one of the NRL.
Superstar Billy Slater shook off the cobwebs in his first game since round 10 last year but his winger Marika Koroibete took the spotlight with two tries at AAMI Park to help set up the victory.
Slater’s heir apparent Cameron Munster lined up in the centres in his first appearance since injuring his knee in the Auckland Nines.
Both sides were guilty of plenty of errors, particularly in the first half, with the Dragons getting the better of the running early.
They raced to a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes and their record of being winless in Melbourne since 1999 looked in threat.
Winger Jason Nightingale got outside of Will Chambers to cross in the sixth minute before Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop engaged in some clever to and fro that ended with Marshall diving across for their second.
That try seemed to shock the Storm and they sent the ball wide two minutes later with Slater finding Koroibete for a try.
The Fijian flyer was in again seven minutes later when he again burnt Dugan thanks to a long ball from Slater.
Two penalty goals from skipper Cameron Smith put the home side ahead with two minutes left in the half.
Melbourne looked like they would run away with the match when prop Kenny Bromwich crossed early in the second stanza after his brother Jesse magically managed to pop a pass.
That try had some extra sting because it came off the back of a penalty that should have gone the other way with Chambers pushing Jack de Belin in the play the ball.
The Dragons refused to go away and threatened the tryline as the clock wound down and Dugan tried to claim a try but the ball was already dead.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor lamented the 9-4 penalty count against his team but said they didn’t help themselves with some poor completion after their promising start.
He said they were still adjusting to their new attack coach, Jason Demetriou, who joined them from the champion Cowboys.
Still, he felt there was a lot to like about their round one showing.
“We can play better than that,” he said.
“To come down here and get beat in a tight contest; I know my team’s a good football team, they’re a committed bunch of men so they will improve.
Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy, who re-signed with the club last week, also described his team’s performance as a mixed bag.
He was delighted with the return of Slater and their fightback after the early deficit but said they needed to work on their communication.
“We did a really good job to get back into it because they were all over us at 10-0,” Bellamy said.
“I was really happy with the way we hung on in the end.
“There’s a lot of things we need to improve on without a doubt but we showed plenty of fight.”