The New Zealand Warriors defied history today to shock National Rugby League title favourites the Melbourne Storm 18-15 in Melbourne.

It marked the first time a team qualifying bottom for the playoffs had beaten the minor premiers since the present format was introduced 10 years ago.

The result means the Warriors will get a home semifinal next Friday night against the Sydney Roosters.

In an absorbing battle that featured superb goal-line defence by both sides, Warrior five-eighth Michael Witt scored two minutes from full-time to secure victory.

Witt even had time to do a salute with the ball before dotting down.

Skipper Steve Price said victory had come against a very good team and he was proud what his players had achieved.

“No one gave us a chance except for the 17 guys on the field,” he told Australia’s Channel Nine television channel.

The win also means fellow prop Ruben Wiki’s NRL career will extend to a 311th appearance and the former Kiwi skipper was rapt at the prospect.

“I’ve just a lot of energy,” he said.

“After this, anything can happen. The boys played some good footy and anything goes in the finals.”

The Warriors showed from the outset that they weren’t intimidated by the Storm’s status as defending champions as well as minor premiers for the third straight year.

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the Storm made an error in the game’s first play, allowing the kickoff to go over their deadball line and being forced to restart with a line dropout.

The Warriors were first across the goal-line through Aidan Kirk, but the winger was held up.

They did get on the board in the 12th minute, Witt landing a penalty for a Michael Crocker high tackle on Ian Henderson.

But from the ensuing kickoff, Henderson lost the ball deep in his own territory and got penalised for retaliating to an opponent’s reaction.

The Storm decided against a shot at goal and were rewarded when Billy Slater’s final pass put winger Anthony Quinn over.

Cameron Smith converted for a four-point lead.

However, the Warriors continued to demonstrate that they had come to Olympic Park to play and they showed a liking for going to Manu Vatuvei’s flank on attack.

The tactic looked to have worked in the 24th minute when the giant winger, who had an outstanding game, went over in the corner, only to be called back for a forward pass.

Three minutes later, the Storm went further ahead with a Smith penalty.

The match started to tilt in Melbourne’s favour, but the Warriors showed great resilience to hold them out.

Just before halftime, their defensive endeavours paid off when they worked their way back up the field and had a scrum just out from the Storm line.

From the first tackle, centre Jerome Ropati slipped opposite Israel Folau’s attempted challenge to score, with Witt’s sideline conversion tying the scores at halftime.

Melbourne looked to have hit the front again just after the interval, after Warrior fullback Lance Hohaia couldn’t clean up a bomb and Slater forced the loose ball down.

But the visitors got a let-off when Slater was rightly adjudged to have tackled Hohaia without the ball.

From the penalty, the Warriors swept upfield and kept the ball alive before Grant Rovelli produced a deft kick for Vatuvei, who beat Slater to the ball to dot down.

Witt’s second sideline conversion took the Warriors out to an unexpected 14-8 lead.

Melbourne again got over the line, but this time Folau was penalised for a double movement.

However, minutes later, Folau couldn’t be denied, forcing his way over through two tacklers. Smith missed with the conversion, but tied up the scores midway through the half with a penalty.

The match continued to flow back and forth and Vatuvei and Hohaia both got close, before Melbourne hit the front again with a Greg Inglis field goal with 12 minutes to go.

But a half-break from Ropati followed by a big run from Vatuvei set Witt up for the decisive score.