MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
It may be Friday, so the Brisbane Broncos featuring in the 8pm timeslot is no surprise, but the turnaround in spirit and backbone this season by the Broncos certainly is, and they went into the clash against Melbourne with more hope than usual despite some key injuries. The Storm had won 10 in a row against Brisbane, and scored 164 points in their last four matches, but this felt like a different clash awaiting on Friday night.
The game opened up at a super pace with Melbourne throwing plenty at the Broncos early, and the Broncos showing their newfound defensive resilience to hold them off. But Melbourne looked on their game tonight and had so many attacking weapons in comparison to Brisbane.
Eventually Melbourne found their way over the Broncos line when Tui Kamikamica crashed over from close to the line charging through a half gap. The field position was set up with a half break from Nick Meaney, a solid run from Cameron Munster, and a crisp pass out of dummy-half from Harry Grant. With the easy conversion made the Storm led 6-0 after 10 minutes and looked sharp.
Melbourne came close to doubling their lead five minutes later when Dean Ieremia was awarded a try after a deft Kenny Bromwich grubber in the corner, but replays showed it was an obvious knock on, and not a great first up decision from the officials.
Not long after, a cross-field kick from Tyrone Roberts was batted down by Brenko Lee to Kurt Capewell, and Capewell held up the ball long enough to ensure his over-the-top basketball pass found Corey Oates with enough room to dive over in the corner to open the Broncos’ scoring. This was after they had secured a repeat set from a neat grubber. The sideline conversion was missed by Kotoni Staggs and with 20 minutes to go the score remained 6-4.
Melbourne crossed the line again minutes later, and again it was disallowed. Justin Olam’s scavenging after a bomb was denied after Cameron Munster attempted a bomb catch that would be much more at home in the traditional game of the Storm’s home town.
Origin hopeful Oates scored his and the Broncos’ second try with the next set, with a simple movement through the hands to the left. Ezra Mam, Te Maire Martin, and Lee were the crucial links in the chain, before Oates jinked inside and made it to the Melbourne line with ease. Staggs’ conversion gave the Broncos a surprise 10-6 lead with 15 minutes to go until half-time.Embed from Getty Images
An uncharacteristic error from Ieremia – bringing back the football from a kick on the first tackle – led to the Broncos adding a third try for the night. Mam initially picked up the loose ball but was mowed down within five metres of the line. Moments later Tyrone Roberts went right and threw a sharp cut out pass to Selwyn Cobbo who worked his magic to dive into the corner and score. This was now three tries in nine minutes for the visitors. Staggs made the conversion for a slightly unbelievable 16-6 lead.Embed from Getty Images
Cobbo went from tryscorer to handing the opposition a gift four points not long after. A second tackle chip-kick 20 metres from the line by Jahrome Hughes landed in space, and although Cobbo did well to read the kick, it popped up out of his arms and a following Munster was on hand to score the very easy try. It was slightly against the run of play as Brisbane had been dominating. Meaney’s conversion made it 16-12 with five first-half minutes to go.
With the next set, the Broncos’ lead had disappeared and the Storm had scored again. A quick exchange of passes on the halfway between Harry Grant to Hughes and back inside to Meaney – which looked reminiscent of better known Storm trios of past seasons – saw Hughes backing up and completing the 30 metres to the Broncos’ line almost untouched. The conversion was missed and the teams went into half-time locked at 16-all.
It was a pulsating half of rugby league, with the momentum shifting a few times between the sides, and the draw at half-time was a fair result.
HALF-TIME: Melbourne Storm 16 Brisbane Broncos 16
The second half didn’t open at the same pace as the first, but again the Storm looked the slightly better side early, but there were errors from both sides as that next crucial try was sought. Brisbane’s inability to attempt to catch a bomb might see them in trouble at another stage this half.
It may have taken almost 20 minutes of the second half, but the Storm were the side to break through for the next try. Storm winger Ieremia was the player to get the try, sliding in the corner after a bullet cut-out pass to Olam, who in turn delivered to Ieremia. Cobbo slipped at a crucial time as Olam approached, opening up the space on the wing. Perhaps it was the steam coming off yet another ferocious charge towards the line from the PNG International. Meaney missed the conversion and the Storm retook the lead at 20-16 with just over a quarter of the game to go.Embed from Getty Images
After forcing the Broncos into back-to-back dropouts by peppering the Brisbane line with clever kicks, the Storm extended their lead and took control of the match. The tryscorer once again was winger Ieremia as Melbourne attacked down the left again through quick passes. This time it started from a little further away from the line as the previous try but the Storm swept towards the line like a summer afternoon storm band on the radar. Meaney made amends for his previous miss by kicking the conversion and Melbourne now led 26-16. The game wasn’t over yet, as the previous Cowboys-Manly game had proven.
With six minutes to go the Storm scored once more, and it was Hughes who got the four pointer. Hughes, who was the best player on the ground on the night, ran at the Broncos’ line and put in a soft grubber kick into the in-goal and chased best to score. This was on the back of a Brisbane penalty gifting the Storm an easy passage upfield. The easy conversion nailed made it 32-16 with four minutes to play.
Whilst a full comeback was unlikely, the Broncos did score another try a minute later to reduce the gap with two minutes to go. The try was scored by Mam, but most of the hard work was done by Billy Walters: he trapped a grubber kick with his legs, scooped the ball up, and ran 60 metres downfield. Mam did well to come from the other side of the field to be in the right place at the right time, and he still had to cover a good 30 metres to score. Staggs missed the conversion, and there were no last-minute heroics from Brisbane as the score remained 32-20 to the end.
Melbourne looked good at times, but were frustrated into errors by the excellent Broncos defence. The two halves for the Storm made the difference in the end, which is not to say the Broncos halves were below par.
Brisbane’s winning run came to an end, but they lost no admirers with a solid effort against one of the competition’s benchmark teams. They look good enough for finals football this season.
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Storm 32 Brisbane Broncos 20
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jahrome Hughes (Storm), 2 pts – Cameron Munster (Storm), 1 pt – Patrick Carrigan (Broncos)
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