Storm pip Roosters in wet weather classic
A Cooper Cronk drop-goal with 40 seconds left has sent the Melbourne Storm to the top of the NRL ladder with a thrilling 17-16 win over the Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park.
Both teams traded tries in the final three minutes before Cronk stepped up to secure the points in front of 12,860 fans.
It was a rugby league masterclass from both sides who showed incredible skill in wet conditions, committing just 10 errors between them to finish with completion rates above 90 per cent.
Filling in for Billy Slater at fullback for Melbourne, Cameron Munster again showed he is ready to deliver on his prodigious talent, not putting a foot wrong as he handled the high ball all night and finished with 157 metres.
The gut-wrenching result makes it three straight defeats for the Roosters, who had salt added to their wound as Jared Warea-Hargreaves took no part in the second half with what the club suspects to be a pectoral injury.
After a blistering start by the visitors it was Melbourne who opened the scoring courtesy of some aerial brilliance by Marika Koroibete on 14 minutes.
The Flying Fijian made good on his nickname when he out leaped Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to catch a high ball and ground all in one motion.
However the next 20 minutes would belong entirely to the visitors who hit back almost immediately.
James Maloney played a sharp assist to Mitchell Aubusson who put the visitors ahead 6-4.
Cameron Smith then had an uncharacteristic brain fade when he sent the resulting kick-off beyond the dead-ball line.
Two penalty goals from Maloney would follow for the Roosters who extended their lead to six by the 27-minute mark.
To Melbourne's credit they fought back in the final minutes of the half and were duly reward rewarded in the 38th minute.
Awarded a repeat set on the Roosters line, the Storm capitalised when Ryan Hinchcliffe sent rookie Felise Kaufusi over beside the posts with a well-timed pass.
A Smith conversion saw the two teams head into the sheds locked at 10-all – remarkably with just a single incomplete set and handling error between despite the persistent rain.
Following the restart Melbourne were pinned in their own half for the next 20 minutes but managed to hold firm, and they then went on the attack with Smith opting against taking a penalty kick from close range.
Blake Green very nearly repaid Smith's faith a minute later when he elected to go solo and dive for the line, only to lose the ball while grounding.
In a night of end-to-end action, the Roosters nearly had their noses in front moments later. Nene MacDonald appeared to have a try beckoning down the right touchline only to be pushed out wide by Kurt Mann and Cameron Munster.
That save by the young brigade would prove the home side's saving grace.
With eight minutes to play a penalty put Melbourne in striking distance, and a cross-field play ended up in the hands of Will Chambers who charged through the Roosters' left edge to score. Smith secured the sideline conversion for the 16-10 lead.
But this game was so good it needed another twist.
A tap-back from towering winger Daniel Tupou recovered possession from the Roosters off a short kick-off, and moments later Tupou was over in the corner after taking a perfect cut-out pass from Maloney.
Maloney then stepped up as Smith had done with his own high-pressure conversion from the sideline to once again level the scores.
But it was the Storm who would have the last laugh, courtesy of their champion No.7.
Melbourne marched downfield and after having his first field-goal attempt charged down, Cronk recovered the ball as the home side received a repeat set. With his side setting up a second field goal chance from point-blank range, Cronk finished the job with 45 seconds left on the clock to record a famous win.
"The composure was excellent, Cooper and Smithy were going to take charge there but I thought the young blokes did their job really well to get in range to kick the field goal," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
"I am really proud of what they've done, especially after a six-day turnaround.
"There is some real spirit in this team and they are showing that at the moment."
It will be back-to-back home games next week for Melbourne who host bottom-placed Manly while the Tricolours will host a rejuvenated Dragons side next Saturday.
Melbourne Storm 17 (Marika Koroibete, Felise Kaufusie, Will Chambers tries; Cameron Smith 2 goals; Cooper Cronk field goal) def. Sydney Roosters 16 (Mitch Aubusson, Daniel Tupou tries; James Maloney 4 goals). Crowd: 12,860.