'Really ugly': Melbourne Storm under fire over 'disgusting' incident

Luciano Leilua, pictured here in agony after the ugly cannonball tackle.
Luciano Leilua was left in agony after the ugly cannonball tackle. Image: Fox Sports/Getty

The Melbourne Storm will be breathing a sigh of relief after forward Trent Loiero got off with just a fine for his ugly cannonball tackle on Luciano Leilua.

The Storm were left counting the cost of their 26-16 win over Wests Tigers on Saturday night, with fears the seasons of Christian Welch and George Jennings are over.

NOT HAPPY: South Sydney coach bristles at post-match question

'RULE IS BROKEN': Controversy erupts in first game of NRL season

In a brutal start to the season for the Storm, Welch suffered a suspected ruptured achilles and Jennings a torn ACL which will leave both battling to play again this year.

Brandon Smith also broke his arm in the first set of the match and is set to spend at least a month out, while Loiero was placed on report for an ugly cannonball tackle.

Loiero cannoned into the legs of Leiula as the Tigers forward was being held up by two other Storm players.

Leilua cried out in pain before staying down on the ground for a number of minutes.

“This is the dangerous one where they come around from the back and the player has no sight of that defender,” Michael Ennis said in commentary for Fox League.

“All of a sudden they get chopped from behind. He’s in some real pain here.

“We need to get those tackles out of the game. They’re just really, really ugly and it’s going to do someone real damage.

“We can’t keep rolling the dice, we can’t keep waiting until someone does an ACL to then outlaw it.”

Trent Loiero, pictured here in an ugly cannonball tackle on Luciano Leulia.
Trent Loiero has escaped with a fine for his cannonball tackle on Luciano Leulia. Image: Fox Sports

Tigers coach Michael Maguire said after the game: “I’d have to have another look at it.

“It’s definitely something that we never, ever practice, but it’s something that the game needs to watch. It’s pretty dangerous, and it’s a bad tackle if it’s done on someone.

“You can see there that 'Luch' was hobbling around for a fair while, but I’ll let the game sort that out.

“But I’m sure they’ll deal with that. It definitely got him. Let’s see where it goes.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said: “I didn’t see it closely, but I thought he was still moving.

“If they’re standing up and they’re not moving, you can’t go in and do that, I thought he was still moving - I might be wrong, I might be proven wrong there.

“I’d like to think he hasn’t done that, but like I said I thought he still had his legs driving.”

Luckily for the Storm, Loiero was hit a Grade 1 Dangerous Contact charge but can escape with a $1000 fine because it's his first offence.

Melbourne Storm overcome injuries to win

It could have been much worse for the Storm at CommBank Stadium if not for scintillating 10 minutes from Jahrome Hughes that turned the game on its head.

The Kiwi halfback had his first big moment in the 58th minute when he stepped past five defenders from 10 metres out to score a brilliant try, with the conversion drawing the Storm level at 16-16 after an earlier Loiero try.

Hughes was at it again eight minutes later, breaking through from dummy-half out of his own end to put Melbourne on the attack.

From the next play Justin Olam put Xavier Coates clear to sensationally score his first Melbourne try on his 21st birthday to give the Storm the lead.

Christian Welch, pictured here being helped from the field after suffering a suspected achilles tear.
Christian Welch is helped from the field after suffering a suspected achilles tear. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Ryan Papenhuyzen then finished the job by grubbering and offloading in the same play for Reimis Smith to score and seal the match.

"I can't remember an effort as brave as it and I am really, really proud of them," Bellamy said after the Storm also won without Jesse Bromwich, Harry Grant and Cameron Munster.

"You have a look at the stats in the first half and we should have been 20 down.

"It's really disappointing for George and certainly Christian. He's had a few tough times now and doesn't deserve that.

"It kills us ... (They) will miss basically the season.

"We should be so happy and jumping out of our skins, but we feel so down for the two guys that have those serious injuries."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.