Melbourne Storm held on for a gritty victory over the desperate North Queensland Cowboys at 1300 Smiles Stadium, the Cowboys have now lost five of their last six home games making their chances of appearing in the finals very slim.
The Grand Final replay part 2 started off with both sides eager to make early inroads on the scoreboard, but both sides struggled to translate that energy into points instead they turned the ball over constantly with the completion rates under fifty percent after the opening twenty minutes.
Johnathan Thurston had the first chance to put points on the board with a penalty kick but his shot hit the posts and rebounded back into the field of play, with handling still an issue for both sides we had to wait until the 32nd minute for the first points as Storm captain Cameron Smith crossed over from dummy half despite the attention of four defenders.
The second half started with the Cowboys looking even more desperate knowing their season was on the line but it was again Melbourne through Smith who put the first points of the second half on the board through a penalty. With North Queensland gaining momentum it was only a matter of time before they scored and it was the Cowboys’ best player on the night winger Kyle Feldt who scored after taking a cross field bomb and miraculously placing the ball down with limited space to work in.
After Thurston converted from the sideline the game was locked up at 6-6 as both sides continued to look for the match winning play the harder they tried the more errors they made and with both defences looking unbreakable it was the Storm who looked for the field goal first as five-eighth Cameron Munster took his shot to put the Storm up by one point.
The Cowboys had their chances and were denied a try to Michael Morgan that would have sealed the game as the bunker ruled Jason Taumalolo had impeded a Storm defender. Thurston then also missed a field goal attempt as time ran out and the Cowboys made more errors the game was gone and most likely the season as well for North Queensland. This was likely the last game that Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston would be involved in as Thurston is retiring at season’s end.
Missed Chances Kill Cowboys
In a game that ends 7-6 you can look back at any missed opportunity to blame on where a side lost the game, but for the Cowboys there were three key moments where they blew point scoring chances which eventually cost them the game. The first being the Thurston missed penalty which for a player of his calibre was an easy attempt, the second also coming in the first half was Gavin Copper failing to gather a Jake Granville grubber kick whilst he was over the try line. The final moment was the Morgan no-try after Taumalolo impeded the defender, although there wasn’t much he could do the fact Taumalolo was in the way cost the Cowboys at the death.
Storm Attack Struggling
Melbourne have been the bench mark for attacking play for almost fifteen years with the combination of Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk tearing teams apart, but with the departure of Cronk and the absence of Smith last week and Slater this week the Storm attack has only mustered up one barge over try in the last two weeks. The fans and critics say Cronk is missing Melbourne but the reality is Melbourne are missing him just as much, Brodie Croft struggled early in the season wearing the No.7 jersey and was replaced by Ryley Jacks, but after a few solid weeks Jacks is also struggling to provide the touch of class the Storm need. It might be time to give Croft another crack to try to kick-start the Storm offence again.
Kevin Walters was a keen onlooker for this match with plenty of his Queensland Origin players taking part in this match, he would have been happy to see everyone got through unscathed except Scott Bolton who had a rib cartilage injury, but is unlikely to be in the selection conversation. Walters would have been pleased to see Michael Morgan running the ball consistently with his move to fullback freeing him of the organising responsibilities belonging to a five-eighth. The only concern for Walters would have been watching origin hopeful Felise Kaufusi produce a ‘cannon ball tackle’ on Origin veteran Matt Scott which could have injured Scott who was already carrying a knee injury into the game, whilst Kaufusi will have a nervous wait after being put on report for the tackle.
Many had the Cowboys as preseason competition favourites after making the Grand Final from 8th place last year and the return of co-captains Thurston and Scott, but after twelve rounds the men from Townsville have just the three wins to show and sit on six competition points. Usually teams require around thirty points to make the finals but with each side only having the one bye this season the magic mark is twenty-eight points, for the Cowboys to reach that total they will need to win ten of their remaining twelve games. The side is capable of achieving this and after last season’s magically run through September you can’t write them off, but the fact the side is playing so poorly makes this mountain look one too high for the Cowboys.
Strom 7 Tries: Smith
Goals: Smith 1/2
Drop Goals: Munster
Goals: Thurston 1/2
Drop Goals: N/A
Cowboys: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo, 14 Enari Tuala, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Francis Molo
Storm: 18 Jahrome Hughes, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Young Tonumaipea, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 15 Tim Glasby, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 14 Brandon Smith, 16 Kenny Bromwich, 17 Sam Kasiano