The Melbourne Storm continued their excellent start to the 2017 NRL season with a hard-earned victory over the Brisbane Broncos.
Despite the Storm’s dominance of territory and possession, a fiercely determined Broncos defence held a slender lead with minutes to play.
A true smash-and-grab away victory was at hand, but a knock on in the Broncos’ penultimate set gave the Storm the opportunity they needed.
Several penalties later, Melbourne finally found a way over the tryline, albeit with an ounce of luck, with a ricochet ending up in the gleeful arms of Josh Addo-Carr, who squared the scores. Cameron Smith then showed nerves of steel to put through the conversion and give Melbourne the lead with a minute to play.
Here are three thoughts from a gripping match.
1. The recovery men
After a prolonged period out of the game following shoulder surgery, Billy Slater made his long-awaited return, midway through the first half, to a standing ovation.
He did not miss a beat, proving safe under the high ball and showing glimpses of his trademark speed and acceleration. It was great to have one the superstars of the game back in action.
Jesse Bromwich made a mockery of his finger injury from a fortnight ago to again lead the Melbourne forward pack. Showing no ill effects, he bashed and crashed for 132 metres.
2. The impediment of attacking players looking to attack the high ball needs to stop
This is nothing new but the NRL needs to take a look at infringements against attacking players trying to catch high, attacking kicks anywhere on the field.
Time and time again, both teams would position a player to impede an attacking player (often a winger) thus preventing them from having a fair chance to jump and catch the kick.
The Broncos were more guilty of this last night, given the pressure they were under in their own 20, but most teams employ this tactic, which needs to be policed better by the on-field referees.
3. The Broncos will take plenty of heart from this loss
Despite two losses on the trot, the Broncos should return to Brisbane with plenty of positives. If they play desperate defence like this on a regular basis, then the wins will surely come.
Despite the Storm’s territorial dominance, they often found it difficult to convert this into points against a determined goal-line defence.
Brisbane shot themselves in the foot with skill errors in possession and conceded too many penalties, but if they can rectify this, they have the attacking arsenal and defensive grit to be a force.