Craig Bellamy has showed why he’s the most sought-after coach in the NRL, with Melbourne outplaying Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane 32-16 in their clash at AAMI Park.
The Broncos hope to lure Bellamy north and while Sunday’s game was far from Melbourne’s best performance of the season, they turned in a huge second half, scoring 24 points, for the Storm coach to extend his head-to-head coaching record to 24-10 over Bennett.
Both teams had three players backing up from State of Origin, with Brisbane centre James Roberts sitting out with achilles soreness and his Storm opposite Will Chambers suspended.
Of the Melbourne players, Cameron Munster took a while to build into the game but scored a crucial 57th-minute try when he ghosted past Broncos skipper Darius Boyd to open a 20-12 lead.
In a scrappy first half, Boyd, who was overlooked for Origin, was one of his team’s best.
Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who also missed Origin after quitting representative football, was also a standout.
With both teams coming off the bye, Boyd looked like he’d put the extended break to good use as he glided through the Storm defence to open the try-scoring.
After the try, Boyd pointed to strapping on his wrist, which bore the letters KW. While it was believed to be in reference to his wife Kayla and daughter Willow, it could also have been a message for Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
Four minutes later, a dropped bomb by Suliasi Vunivalu saw a Broncos scrum 15m out and they sent the ball wide, catching the Storm well short for winger Jamayne Isaako to dive over the line and the visitors to take a 12-2 lead.
Melbourne centre Young Tonumaipea, in his last home game before going on a two- year Mormon mission, closed the gap to 12-8 before halftime when he dragged five Broncos over the line.
Backing up from Origin, Felise Kaufusi split the defence to score, with his converted try giving the home side the lead with Munster’s effort opening it up to eight points.
Brisbane hit back in the 63rd minute, with Jordan Kahu again finding space out wide, but their fightback stalled when Vunivalu ended his four-game try-scoring drought off a Munster bomb.
Jahrome Hughes, replacing injured fullback Billy Slater, then finished off the match, with Munster again in the thick of the action.
‘MACHINE’ GALLEN LEADS SHARKS COMEBACK
Cronulla have consolidated their spot in the NRL top eight on the back of a vintage second-half performance from Paul Gallen in their 24-16 win over the Wests Tigers.
The Sharks appeared out of energy and ideas when they trailed a typically stubborn Tigers outfit by eight with half an hour to go at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday.
But a solo try to the oldest player in the competition flipped the contest on its head.
The Cronulla skipper backed his way over on a routine run up the middle then set up a 90m try for Valentine Holmes four minutes later when he fielded a Luke Brooks kick.
It was Holmes’ 12th try in 13 games this season.
The 13,093-strong crowd then found full voice as the Sharks made it three tries in 10 minutes as five-eighth Matt Moylan threw a looping cutout for Edrick Lee.
And just like that, the Sharks, who also lost Luke Lewis and Joseph Paulo to concussion, turned an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead.
A Tuimoala Lolohea try set up by a Chris Lawrence linebreak against the run of play ensured a tense final 10 minutes, but Sharks rookie Jesse Ramien sealed the win in the 75th minute.
The exciting talent took full advantage of an Andrew Fifita offload before bursting through a tiring Tigers middle to give Cronulla their seventh win in eight matches.
“We had a bloke come in during the week and was talking about donating some money for a try. Every time we (scored) we’d donate to charity,” Flanagan said after the match.
“I nearly opened my big mouth and said, ‘If Gal scores, I’ll double it’. I might’ve mumbled it but I didn’t commit to it because I didn’t think he’d score a try.
“What happens this week — he scored a try and set one up.”
The defeat for the Tigers, who lost Benji Marshall to a calf injury before the match, leaves them in ninth spot, two points adrift of the top eight.
It was a penalty shootout early, with Esan Marsters and Chad Townsend potting three between them before Tigers hooker Elijah Taylor dummied his way over from close range.
The Sharks had twice the number of looks at the tryline than the Tigers and had a one-man advantage when Michael Chee Kam was binned for repeated infringements in the 33rd minute.
But the Tigers, who lost Chris Lawrence to cramps late in the second half, showed enough resolve to take an eight-point lead at the break, only to crumble under pressure in the second.
Tigers coach Ivan Cleary bemoaned a poor kicking display from their halves.
“If we were digging holes, in among getting the shovel in the dirt, we’d take a few toes off every now and then. We took too many toes off today,” Cleary said.
“We just can’t quite apply pressure, although we applied pressure to ourselves more than them. That’s what happened in the second half.”