Melbourne has confirmed their NRL Premiership credentials with a heart stopping win in the final 30 seconds at Suncorp Stadium, producing the ultimate never-say-die performance to down a gallant Brisbane outfit 16-14.
The reigning premiers triumphed in the face of extreme adversity, overcoming the sin binning of prop Jeff Lima and rallying from a 12-nil halftime deficit to get home in an absolute thriller.
Brisbane looked for all money to have parlayed a week of turmoil into the ultimate against-the-odds victory, but a 79th minute Broncos knock on gifted the Storm one last chance to keep their dream of back-to-back premierships alive.
They didn’t waste it.
The Storm put it though the hands and crossed in the corner through Inglis, to complete an amazing escape act.
Trailing 12-nil at the break, the defending premiers were on the ropes, and started the second half like their season was on the line.
First they repelled repeat sets from the Broncos, and then they produced some stunning attack to re-ignite the contest.
Cronk found Billy Slater wrapping around on a second man play, who in turn linked with Israel Folau.
Folau brushed a feeble attempted tackle from Joel Moon, before a delivering a stunning one-arm offload infield to a supporting Michael Crocker, and the Storm were back in the contest.
Cameron Smith was on target with the extras, to make it 12-6 after 47 minutes.
The Storm undid much of their good work when Smith knocked on shortly after the restart, but some phenomenal goal-line defence denied Boyd his second try and kept the Storm within range.
Melbourne continued to attack with renewed flair, and almost produced the try of the season in the 53rd minute.
A Smith grubber looked to be heading for the dead-ball line, before it was batted back into the in-goal by Matt Geyer, and batted back again by Anthony Quinn for Inglis to touch down, but the video ref ruled Inglis offside in the lead up.
The contest started to degenerate on the back of a number of high tackles, with the teams coming to blows twice before the referee dealt Melbourne’s hopes a crushing blow.
Shayne Hayne sent Jeff Lima to the sin-bin for a late hit on Michael Ennis, and the penalty provided Corey Parker with a gift two points to stretch the Broncos lead to eight with just under 20 minutes remaining.
An eight-point deficit against Brisbane with 12 men on the park would be mission impossible for most sides, but you can never count out the defending premiers.
Cooper Cronk produced a pin-point bomb and Slater did the rest, snatching it out of the air and forcing his way over next to the posts to get the Storm within two points following Smith’s conversion.
The Broncos looked to have iced the game in the 76th minute though a try to Ben Hannant, but again the Storm scrambled brilliantly in defence to hold him up, and the rest is history.
An early penalty against Inglis for holding down in the ruck presented Brisbane with the night’s first attacking opportunity, and if the Storm were in need of a wake up call, they soon got it.
Some quick passing from Peter Wallace and Karmichael Hunt caught the Storm defence short on the left, presenting Denan Kemp with the easiest of tries in the corner.
Parker nailed the extras from the touchline, and the Broncos were off to flyer, 6-nil in front after five minutes.
The Melbourne machine looked to have clicked into gear in the 17th minute when Cronk threaded a grubber into the in-goal for Billy Slater to score, but replays showed the Queensland Origin fullback was unable to ground the ball cleanly.
Only some desperate defence was protecting the Brisbane lead, Cronk got over the line but was held up, as the Storm’s normally precision attacking plays continued to falter.
And it came back to bite the defending premiers, the Broncos produced some stunning ad-lib football for Denan Kemp to cross in the 33rd minute, with Parker’s conversion putting the home side up by a dozen.
The Storm were gifted some sustained possession courtesy of a Justin Hodges brain explosion, with the star centre penalised for arguing with a touch judge.
But the the visitors couldn’t cash in, as more horrendous options in attack let the Broncos off the hook.
Storm halfback Cooper Cronk was relieved at the end of the epic battle.
“We were lucky to get away with that one,” said Cronk whose kicking game played a big part in the win.
“We were just lucky that Sika (Manu) caused that mistake (Sims). We scored on the end of that.
“The Broncos were all over us but we survived for another week.”
A distraught Lockyer was almost inconsolable as he stumbled almost aimlessly from the field.
“I don’t think I have ever felt like that before. We turned up tonight …. I’m lost for words.
“Anyway, it’s happened now,” he added still in a daze.