Croft stars as Storm beat Warriors
Young Storm half Brodie Croft has staked his claim for a Round 1 start after his instrumental showing in Melbourne's 30-18 comeback win over the Warriors at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night.
After a quiet first half, Croft put on a show in the second 40, rallying his troops from 18-0 down to storm home in front of 10,169 raucous fans.
Croft's two try assists late in the match were pivotal to the result as the young gun continued his excellent audition for Melbourne's vacant five-eighth jersey.
Storm assistant coach Adam O'Brien was full of praise for the 19-year-old, with Croft's impressive performance on Saturday night a great follow up to his outstanding Downer Auckland Nines campaign.
"He did a good job closing it out for us and that's a great sign for someone his age," O'Brien said.
"The most pleasing thing is that he has a really strong head on his shoulders."
All of Croft's composure was needed after half-time, with Melbourne beginning the second half down 18-6 after a poor first 40 minutes.
However, a comeback was on the cards in the 54th minute, with Slade Griffin darting from dummy-half to burrow his way over for a four-pointer. Scott Drinkwater converted from next to the posts to cut the margin to six.
The scores levelled in the 70th minute, with Croft putting through a perfectly weighted kick for Jeremy Hawkins. Dylan Kelly made no mistake with the conversion, locking the scores at 18-all and ensuring a nail biting finish.
Croft continued his fast finish in the 75th minute, helping set up a Linc Port try that put Melbourne in front. Kelly added the extras to give the Storm a 24-18 lead with five minutes to go.
Melbourne sealed the win in the 79th minute, with a clever kick from half Ryley Jacks sending Young Tonumaipea over in the corner. Kelly converted from the sideline to complete the Storm's 30-18 comeback win.
Earlier, the Warriors opened the scoring in the 13th minute courtesy of a try to winger Tuimoala Lolohea, with the 22-year-old the beneficiary of a beautiful Roger Tuivasa-Sheck cut-out ball. Mason Lino added the extras from the sideline to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.
In the 20th minute, star halfback Shaun Johnson found Bunty Afoa with a classy short ball that put the versatile forward through the Storm's defensive line. Lino again converted to extend New Zealand's lead to 12-0.
The onslaught continued in the 23rd minute, with Tuivasa-Sheck catching a perfectly placed bomb from Johnson to score under the posts. Ata Hingano added the extras to make it 18-0.
Melbourne finally got on the board in the 39th minute, with a great short ball from five-eighth Cameron Munster finding forward Joe Stimson. Stimson then crossed under the posts untouched, much to the pleasure of the pro-Melbourne crowd. Munster converted from right in front to keep the hosts in the game as both sides headed into the sheds for half-time.
The Storm carried on with this momentum to record an impressive 12-point win over an inconsistent Warriors side.
Melbourne Storm 30 (Joe Stimson, Slade Griffin, Jeremy Hawkins, Linc Port, Young Tonumaipea tries; Cameron Munster conversion; Scott Drinkwater conversion; Dylan Kelly 3 conversions) defeated Warriors 18 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Bunty Afoa, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions; Ata Hingano conversion). Halftime: 18-6 Vodafone Warriors. Referees: Ashley Klein and Ziggy Przeklaski-Adamski. Crowd: 10,169.