Klein stopped play, causing a furious protest from Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson. Vunivalu was briefly treated for his ailment and hobbled back into the defensive line shortly after play resumed.
The NRL will this week consider issuing the Storm with a breach notice given the game’s rules prevent any trainer from “attempts to unnecessarily stop play for tactical reasons”.
It came on the same day it was confirmed Cameron Smith will walk a tightrope in the grand final qualifier after the Storm reluctantly agreed to take an early guilty plea for a dangerous throw charge against the Eels.
Melbourne entered the submission on Monday morning after spending most of Sunday giving serious thought to fighting the sanction at the NRL judiciary, risking Smith’s spot in the preliminary final against either the Roosters or Raiders.
The early guilty plea means Smith will have 75 carry-over points to his name for the match at Suncorp Stadium, which will be the sixth straight year the Storm have played in a grand final qualifier.
Even the most minor indiscretion could rub Smith out of the grand final should the Storm advance, in what could potentially be the last game of his decorated career.
The Storm asked lawyer Nick Ghabar to analyse Smith’s tackle on Parramatta five-eighth Dylan Brown. The incident was penalised by Klein, but wasn’t put on report.
But given the enormous stakes, the club decided it would be best for Smith to take the early guilty plea. Melbourne insiders insist if it was an ordinary regular season game – or even a qualifying final – they would have definitely challenged the match review committee’s finding.
Ghabar will still represent a client at the judiciary on Tuesday night as Panthers star Viliame Kikau contests a grade one dangerous throw charge, the same penalty levelled at Smith.