The Melbourne Storm have surged home in the second half to edge the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys 23-22 in a thrilling extra-time contest between two understrength sides at AAMI Park tonight.
With both sides missing a slew of Origin players, the match was expected to be a dour, low-scoring one, but seven tries in total and some wild momentum swings ensured an entertaining contest on a chilly Melbourne evening.
The Cowboys led 10-0 after half an hour and 14-6 shortly after the break, but a Storm deluge of three tries in six minutes shortly prior to three-quarters of the way through the match overwhelmed the brave visitors.
A 78th-minute try to Kane Linnett, a sideline conversion from Feldt, then a 35m penalty from the same right on full time sent the game into golden point extra time, the third such match the Cowboys have been involved in this year.
But after Lachlan Coote missed the Cowboys’ attempt to ice the game, young Storm half Brodie Croft struck the killer blow in the 84th minute to hand the home team the win.
FELDT LIKE SOME POINTS
Tryless through his first nine games, powerful Cowboys winger Feldt now has six four-pointers from his past five outings after crossing in the ninth minute.
Feldt’s classy finish from a Justin O’Neill line break gave the Cowboys an 8-0 lead early after the Townsville product converted from out wide following an eighth-minute penalty.
A second penalty a quarter of an hour from half-time gave the visitors a handy 10-0 buffer before centre Curtis Scott finished off a Storm raid at 31 minutes, that try converted for the 10-6 scoreline at the break.
With nine top-line players from both sides combined missing in action due to Queensland State of Origin duty, this game was always going to be about ball security, as flagged by Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo in the pre-game interview.
Despite the slippery conditions on a cold Melbourne night, good handling was placed at a premium as the sides churned through their first five sets each without an error.
The Cowboys completed their first seven sets and had an impressive 16/19 (84%) completion rate by half-time.
The Storm’s handling flagged a little at the end of the period and they were at 71% (12/17) by the main break.
Cowboy #265 graced the big stage tonight and 21-year-old Bundaberg product Kyle Laybutt did not disappoint.
The blonde-haired No.6 looked assured with every touch and tackle, the former National Youth Competition playmaker involved in the passing chain that led to the Cowboys’ first try, while later he put a deft grubber kick in-goal to force a repeat set for the Storm.
He would repeat that dose early in the second, shortly before Lachlan Coote crossed for the Cowboys’ second at the 45-minute mark.
Coote’s try came from a Jake Granville grubber as Jacks failed to put the ball dead on the chase.
The Storm looked for all money to have scored a second right on half-time as young halfback Ryley Jacks touched down under the posts.
But a video review found an earlier off-side ruling and the Cowboys hung on to their meagre lead.
Former Cowboys under-20s hooker Brandon Smith came back to haunt his old club in the 52nd minute with a trademark dummy-half try in just his second NRL match.
Smith showed remarkable strength for his second try in as many matches to ignite an amazing six-minute three-try blitz from the Storm.
Scott touched down for his second then Felise Kaufusi crashed over the first set after Kyle Feldt kicked out on the full on the restart.
The Cowboys are eight wins and six losses to sit at the bottom of the eight and turn their attention to the in-form Panthers at home next Saturday.
MELBOURNE STORM 23 (Curtis Scott 2, Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi tries; Cameron Munster 3 goals; Brodie Croft field goal) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 22 (Kyle Feldt, Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett tries; Feldt 2 goals, 3 pen. goals) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 17,124.