A four-minute burst of size, speed and skill from Kiwi international Jesse Bromwich has enabled the Melbourne Storm to break a two-game losing streak with an entertaining 24-20 win over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Monday night.
In front of a crowd of just 6,497 – 41 more people than the season-low crowd at Campbelltown in Round 6 who watched the Tigers play the Cowboys – it was Maroons discard Will Chambers and the Storm's Kiwi contingent who inspired a much-needed victory.
Trailing 16-14 inside the final 10 minutes, Bromwich showed some deft footwork to get on the outside of Mark Minichiello 45m out from the Titans line and bust into the back-field, finding Ryan Hinchliffe in support on his inside who in turn put Ben Hampton away to score under the posts.
It was the fourth lead change of the half after the two teams went into the break locked together at 10-all but Bromwich ensured the competition points would indeed head south when he put Tohu Harris through a gap with a superb pass 30m out from the Titans' tryline. On the next play fullback Kurt Mann was able to power his way through three desperate Gold Coast defenders to score wide out and open up a 24-16 advantage with six minutes to play.
Titans winger Kevin Gordon set up a thrilling final few minutes when he defied all known laws of physics to haul in a William Zillman cross-field kick to score in the very north-west corner of the field but the Storm survived some anxious moments in the final minute to hold on for their seventh win of the season.
Released from the Maroons camp for Game Two of the Origin Series on Wednesday night, Chambers put any feelings of disappointment to one side to score a try in each half and continued to play on despite suffering a bad cut below his left knee in the 64th minute.
But it was Bromwich who was the Storm's greatest contributor, leading all players with 188 running metres and while also making 30 tackles.
It was a brave display from the Titans who found themselves down 10-0 after 19 minutes and without their five-eighth after Beau Henry was forced from the field with an injury to his right knee inside the first 10 minutes.
With Albert Kelly unable to take his place in the side the Titans went in with a halves pairing of Henry and Maurice Blair but Henry lasted just eight minutes before suffering a suspected posterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee.
Having missed all of the 2013 season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee and off-contract at the end of the 2014 season it was another bitter blow for Henry and seemed to unsettled the Titans even further.
Four minutes after Henry left the field, Storm halfback Ben Roberts sliced his way through the Titans defence and went on an unimpeded 35-metre run to the tryline, selling a dummy to fullback William Zillman before running around under the posts for first points.
They extended their lead to 10 points in the 19th minute when Chambers kicked on the last tackle, the ball ricocheting off Blair and into the arms of Hampton who found Bromwich in support who in turn offloaded back to Chambers to score wide out.
The prospects of a drought-breaking win appeared even bleaker for the Titans when Ashley Harrison – back early from a fracture in his neck – left the field in plenty of discomfort in the 24th minute and clutching at his left shoulder.
He played no further part in the first half proceedings until his surprise return in the 55th minute, as well as the enthusiastic charges of debutant Caleb Binge and veteran Mark Minichiello, sparked the home side to life.
Their first points came in the 29th minute when Blair dropped the ball onto his left foot and into the in-goal, and then an air-swinging Chambers enabling Brad Tighe to swoop in and plant the ball down left of the uprights.
The same play came up trumps again five minutes later when Blair grubbered forcefully into the in-goal with the Steeden taking a wicked bounce to fly high above the outstretched arms of both Kurt Mann and Sisa Waqa before falling into the arms of a grateful Kevin Gordon to level things up at 10-all.
The Titans continued to pressure the Storm tryline in the closing minutes of the half and despite the best attempts of an electrifying James Roberts in his Titans debut, were unable to grab what would have been an unlikely half-time lead.
Melbourne Storm 24 (Will Chambers 2, Ben Roberts, Ben Hampton, Kurt Mann tries; Roberts 2 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 20 (Kevin Gordon 2, Brad Tighe, James Roberts tries; Gordon 2 goals). Half-time: 10-all. Crowd: 6,497.