Australian NRL doesn’t get much bigger that a game between Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters and that is just what was served up in the opening game of Round 8 at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Both sides knew that a win would lift them into an overnight top spot on the ladder but the bookies favoured a win for the Storm. Most commentators struggled to call it though as the rugby league loving public settled down to watch a true battle of the titans.
Melbourne were without Cameron Munster, and the Roosters would have to do without the second rower Isaac Liu, but did have talisman James Tedesco back in their line-up.
A mistake from Melbourne resulted in a breakaway Storm try as Kyle Flanagan took a Brett Morris pass, the winger having picked up a fumbled ball, to find a gap and canter home. Flanagan added the conversion to his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Melbourne took three minutes to respond with Josh Addo-Carr picking up a dropped Roosters ball to go sixty metres down the left wing to score ten in from the corner. Two mistakes and two tries, it was far from the silky skills that we’d been expecting from the start of the game. Cam Smith made no mistakes with his conversion for 6-6.
After the initial tit-for-tat errors, the two sides tightened their ball handling skills and an end to end game ensued. With three minutes remaining Josh Morris took a Daniel Tupou pass to go under Saliasi Vunivalu and stretch to score on the line. Flanagan added the touchline conversion for the Roosters to take a 12-6 lead into the sheds.
Ninety seconds after the restart Tom Eisenhuth intercepted a Boyd Cordner pass and threw the pass inside to Jerome Hughes who went forty metres to score under the post. Smith added the conversion and the two sides were tied up again.
On fifty-five the Roosters were back in the driving seat as fast hands saw a miss-out pass into the hands of Brett Morris who found space wide right to score by the corner flag. Flanagan drifted his kick superbly inside the near post for his third of the night.
On sixty-nine Josh Morris got his second, a breakaway try, when he took a Luke Keary delayed pass and stooped to score from an almost impossible position after shrugging off the Vunivalu attempted tackle. This time Flanagan failed with his touchline conversion, a slight chink of light for the Storm with ten remaining.
A double step from Jerome Hughes secured him his second try of the half as he waltzed through a broken and ineffective Roosters defence. Can Smith added the extras and the margin was back down to four points.
On seventy-three Paul Momirovski got his Storm side back level at 22-22 after the Roosters failed to deal with a high kick and the loose ball was collected by Hughes who passed out to the centre to score. Smith kicked the crucial goal to put the Storm into the lead for the first time in the game, the kick in off the upright.
Three minutes from time the Storm were penalised thirty out from the Roosters line after pushing off the ball. Flanagan smacked the ball between the posts for 24-24 with ninety seconds left on the clock.
Forty seconds from time Luke Keary maintained his cool to put a field goal between the uprights to snatch a one-point lead. But forty seconds later full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen smacked a thirty-five-metre field goal between the sticks to level the scores at 25-25 and send the game into golden point.
Boyd Cordner took a big knock and then failed to play the ball correctly. From the resulting scrum Melbourne moved the ball close before Friend was penalised in-front of the sticks for holding down. Can Smith kicked the two point penalty to snatch the win and put the Storm to equal top of the table.
This was a terrific game which totally lived up to the pre-match hype. The Storm twice came back when they were down an out to push the Roosters all the way to golden point, with neither side deserving to lose. In the end it was a head knock to Cordner, and then indiscipline from Jake Friend which cost the Roosters the points. But the game and everyone involved were the winners of a superb eighty-three minutes.
Melbourne Storm: Papenhuyzen (DG), Vunivalu, Olam, Momirovski (T), Addo-Carr (T), Jacks, Hughes (2T), Bromwich J, Smith C (5G), Welch, Kaufusi, Bromwich K, Finucane. Subs: Smith B, Faasuamaleaui, Eisenhuth, Asofa-Solomona.
Sydney Roosters: Tedesco J, Tupou, Morris J (2T), Manu, Morris B (T), Keary (DG), Flanagan (T, 4G), Warea-Hargreaves, Friend, Taukeiaho, Cordner, Crichton, Butcher. Subs: Collins, Faamausili, Tupouinua, Aubusson.
Referee: Ashley Klein.
Full-Time: 25-25. (27-25 after golden point)
Ground: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.