Cronk guides Storm to victory
The Storm's recent dominance over the Broncos has stretched to seven consecutive games after a comprehensive first half display helped lay the foundation for a 30-8 victory at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The 22-point win sees the Storm move to 24 competition points and leapfrog the Broncos on the ladder to sit in sixth position.
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Cooper Cronk was at the heart of everything, with the classy halfback scoring one try and having a hand in three others in another virtuoso Man of the Match performance in front of 36,319 spectators.
Melbourne also celebrated Cameron Smith becoming the highest points-scoring forward in NRL history, overtaking Craig Fitzgibbon's record of 1604 points with five goals to move the Storm skipper to 1607 first-grade points.
The Broncos hadn't defeated the Storm since Round 9, 2010, with that recent superiority looking set to continue after the southerners led 12-0 in the 14th minute.
Brisbane's performance was a spirited one considering the circumstances surrounding the week, where it was confirmed coach Anthony Griffin would depart at the end of the season, but a sloppy completion rate of 66 per cent had the home side constantly on the back foot.
Somehow only trailing 12-4 at half-time after the Storm dominated every facet of the first half, the Broncos had the first attacking foray of the second stanza in the 48th minute, Matt Gillett denied a try in the process.
Four minutes later the Storm had possession deep in Brisbane's territory and made it count when Ryan Hoffman scored his second try after being sent through a gap by Cooper Cronk close to the line. Smith added the extras to take the Storm out to an 18-4 lead in the 54th minute.
A disjointed set by Brisbane in the 62nd minute remarkably led to an Alex Glenn try after a Justin Hodges kick was battered infield by winger Jordan Kahu in the direction of Dale Copley, with Copley then flicking the ball back on the inside for Glenn to swoop on to score Brisbane's second try. Corey Parker couldn't direct his conversion on target, keeping the score at 18-8 in favour of Melbourne.
Any chance of a Broncos comeback was quickly snuffed out by the Storm as Ryan Hinchcliffe crashed over underneath the posts to take the score out to 24-8. Smith's conversion took the 277-game veteran above Fitzgibbon's points scoring record of 1601 points.
Maestro Cronk was then involved again, running the ball on the last to sneak over in the corner for the Storm's fifth try in the 69th minute. With two minutes remaining Smith added further points with a penalty to take the score to 30-8 at fulltime.
In the first half, the Broncos received the kick-off and punted away possession on the third tackle, allowing the Storm to force line dropout from their first set.
After mounting that initial pressure, Melbourne drew first points after a cross-field kick by Cronk was marked by winger Marika Koroibete who stepped around opposite Lachlan Maranta to score the opening try in the corner. Smith steered his conversion through the posts to take the Storm out to a 6-0 in the fifth minute.
The Storm maintained their momentum in the opening 10 minutes by dominating the possession count with four consecutive sets before Sisa Waqa was bundled into touch in the fifth set by a determined Broncos defence.
Melbourne doubled their lead after 14 minutes in contentious circumstances when Ryan Hoffman planted the ball down for a try after a no-try decision was initially awarded. Hoffman had pounced on a loose ball from an aerial contest between Billy Slater and Ben Hunt to claim the try; however there were serious questions as to whether Slater had impeded Hunt while competing for the ball.
The video referee decision to award a try left Brisbane fans and Channel Nine commentators flabbergasted, yet there was little that could be done as the boot of Smith soon took the score out to 12-0.
The Broncos were struggling to see the ball with the Storm having 64 per cent of possession in the opening 25 minutes, but they soon had points on the scoreboard when Dale Copley crossed out wide two minutes later to take the score to 12-4.
For all of the Storm's possession and pressure the Broncos were holding strong with resolute defence, with no better example being Josh Hoffman's try-saving tackle on Cronk in the 35th minute which was originally awarded as a try. Somehow the Broncos fullback prevented Cronk from placing the ball on single blade of grass to keep the scoreboard untouched.
The southerners received a penalty inside the last two minutes of the half which propelled them into another attacking position, but once again the gritty Broncos kept their defensive line intact to keep the score at 12-4 at half-time.
Melbourne Storm 30 (Ryan Hoffman 2, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Marika Koroibete tries; Cameron Smith 5 goals) def. Brisbane Broncos 8 (Dale Copley, Alex Glenn tries) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 36,319.