Storm defeat Cowboys to book home Prelim
A brave, courageous and spirited Storm have defeated the reigning premiers to secure a home preliminary final in two weeks time.
Melbourne held their nerves in the clutch moments to defeat the Cowboys 16-10 in front of 21,333 fans at AAMI Park.
It was a contest that perfectly summed up what finals footy was all about as both teams gave it absolutely everything all night.
Though Storm lead the entire game the margin did not extend beyond six points all night as North Queensland continued to lay down the challenge.
But as they have all season the men in purple came up with the answers time and time again.
Storm’s kicking game had the home side on the front foot early as Cameron Smith producing a 40-20 kick followed by Blake Green grubber to force a goal line drop out.
The men in purple controlled the football in the first 20 minutes on the back of 60% possession.
The Cowboys held firm though and responded by holding onto the ball for the next eight minutes, forcing four consecutive goal line drop outs.
However that was Melbourne’s cue to to flex their defensive muscle and their herculean work at the defensive end was rewarded with points at the other as Smith converted a penalty kick for the first points of the game.
A piece of individual brilliance two minutes later gave Storm their first try. A Dale Finucane tackle on Gavin Cooper forced the ball to spill forward and into the hands of Storm’s right-sided Fijian Flyer.
Suliasi Vunivalu scooped the ball up on his own 40 and burst down the sideline, rounding Johnathan Thurston before leaping over the try line for a 6-0 lead.
The Cowboys would hit back though through a good piece of fortune as a grubber kick deflected of several pairs of legs before ending up in the hands of Antonio Winterstein who levelled the scores with a minute left in the first half.
Neither side gave an inch after the restart, trading sets without a break in play before the Cowboys blinked first in the 48th minute when they conceded a penalty in front of the posts.
It was an opportunity Smith gladly accepted as the Storm skipper converted to edge his side ahead by two.
That advantage would grow moments later when a Michael Morgan handling error again handed Storm possession deep in opposition territory.
It was a big moment needed a big man and who better to answer the call than Jesse Bromwich.
The Kiwi prop accepted a pass from his captain to crash over the line, taking three defenders with him and beat the all to ground the football for a handy 14-6 lead.
Storm had the momentum but invited the Cowboys back into the contest with a penalty than handed the visitors possession 20m out from the Melbourne line.
The reigning premiers pounced to execute a right side move that ended up in the hands of Kyle Feldt to score down the touchline and cut the deficit to four.
That set up 18 minutes of pure tension as it was hearts and mouths stuff for the purple faithful.
Cool heads were needed at it was the experience of Green that came to the fore, forcing a goal line drop out with yet another perfectly waited grubber.
Some ill-discipline from the Cowboys gave Storm another penalty in kicking range as it was Smith who once again stepped up to make no mistake.
Melbourne Storm 16
Tries: Suliasi Vunivalu, Jesse Bromwich
Goals: Cameron Smith 4
North Queensland Cowboys 10
Tries: Antonio Winterstein, Kyle Feldt
Goals: Johnathan Thurston