Broncos 18 Storm 19
Dynamic duo ... Cooper Cronk kicks for Billy Slater. Photo: Getty Images
WHEN Brisbane lock Ben Teo scored his second try to tie up last night's game against Melbourne with nine minutes left to play, Storm halfback Cooper Cronk walked over to his captain Cameron Smith in their in-goal.
"He's good at reading the game, Coops," hooker Smith said last night. "He actually came over and spoke to me when Benny Teo scored that try, when they drew level, and said, 'If you get a chance, mate, get me to halfway and I'm going to have a shot. He can pull 'em off, he's coming off two from two long range at this ground but thankfully we got deep inside their half with with a couple of good runs and we got close for him.
Corey Norman gets the ball away. Photo: Getty Images
"He can kick a field goal here, that's for sure, the little fella. It was almost like a training shot for him, only 20 out."
Coach Craig Bellamy recalled: "The Broncos made a rare error and gave us the chance to set it up for it. We actually went for the try first, we couldn't get over and we set it up for the field goal. He doesn't miss too many from that range.''
Cronk has a habit of booting winning field goals at Suncorp Stadium but the real story of last night's game was the intensity under which it was played, with exhausted combatants strewn across the turf at fulltime.
"It sort of reminded me of some of the Storm teams of the past where we really hung in through tough periods," Bellamy raved. "We weren't that far away with our attack. I was happy with how consistent we were for the 80 minutes tonight whereas the last couple of weeks, it was 40 minutes."
While Broncos coach Anthony Griffin and captain Sam Thaiday were deflated late last night, Smith and Bellamy heaped praises on the vanquished and predicted they would be force in the finals.
Smith said: "A team probably hasn't thrown that much at us in a first 40 minutes for a while or even all year, I think.
"We were using all our energy to defend them. You never write a Broncos side off. They're a great football side. I reminds me a lot of the [bad] patch we went through. They didn't do a lot wrong tonight, the Broncos. They played great football and they did last week. You come off the ground scratching your head, wondering 'where did we go wrong there?'''
"It was a semi-final type game tonight," said Bellamy. "The Broncos, they are fighting for their life. They played really well in the first half. I don't think they made an error in that first half and their completions were good in the second half.
"They showed some legs, which they probably haven't been in recent games. There were some really good signs for them. I was really proud of our performance … to go down 12-0 and we weren't really doing too much wrong to be quite honest … "
Griffin said his side were learning "some hard football lessons". "It is what it is - there's no easy way out of it," he said. "I haven't looked at the competition table for three weeks. I've been concentrating on trying to get us back where we want to be - and we're almost there.
Predictably, Bellamy thought Sisa Waqa's try just before halftime was fair. "How many tries have we seen this year just scored by a fingernail?" he said.
Griffin said he saw the decision by video referee Paul Simpkins "the same as everyone else" but "I'm not going to sit here and blame calls for what happened".
Thaiday was on the receiving end when the Storm's Bryan Norrie was placed on report for lifting his forearm as he carried the ball. "I don't think there was anything in it," said Thaiday. "That's footy. I don't think he meant to do it."
MELBOURNE 19 (S Waqa 2 C Cronk tries C Smith 3 goals C Cronk field goal) bt BRISBANE 18 (B Te'o 2 J Hodges tries P Wallace 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Chris James. Crowd: 41,467