MELBOURNE Storm moved a step closer to a top-two finish and a home qualifying final with a thrilling 19-18 win over Brisbane Broncos in the National Rugby League at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight.
The slow starting Storm conceded the opening two tries of the game to be on the back foot for the first 30 minutes.
A twinkle toes move from full back Justin Hodges, who evaded four Storm defenders en route to the opening try, provided the perfect foundation for the Broncos.
The home side’s confidence grew further when Ben Te’o finished a fine move after the ball had passed through the hands of Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker.
Two conversions from Peter Wallace and the Broncos had 12 unanswered points to start the game.
The Storm finally settled into a rhythm late in the first half and got their first points two minutes before the break through a controversial try to Sisa Waqa.
Waqa barged over the line in the corner and appeared to bobble the ball ever so slightly, but the video referee awarded benefit of the doubt due to inconclusive vision and the deficit for the Purple Army was cut to six.
Like they did a week earlier in a come-from-behind win over the Gold Coast Titans, the Storm came out with all guns blazing in the second half.
They were like a new side from the moment Cooper Cronk put a nifty chip through the Broncos defensive line into the upright and re-gathered for a breathtaking try three minutes after the resumption.
Cameron Smith added his second conversion and scores were dead-locked at 12-apiece.
All the momentum was with the Storm.
Anthony Quinn’s piercing runs from the last line provided the spark, Billy Slater’s all-action play had the Broncos defensive line frazzled and Cronk’s kicking game provided the territory.
But, it was captain Smith who orchestrated the fightback, with smart runs from dummy half and tireless work in defence amounting to 45 tackles.
The Storm’s second half dominance paid dividends when a well weighted Cronk cross field kick was fumbled by Josh Hoffman and Waqa mopped up for his second try of the game.
Smith added the extras to make it 18-12 to the Storm with 30 minutes remaining.
The Broncos would not lie down.
They got back on level terms in the 71st minute when Te’o mowed over Cronk to score his second try.
Wallace converted to level the scores at 18-all.
The Storm found much better field position in the last 10 minutes and Cronk took full advantage to slot the match-winning field goal from 19 metres out in the 74th minute.
The one-point victory leaves the Storm in second place with two games remaining.
A penultimate round showdown with the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park next Monday night is the Storm’s next test.