Croft was the hero for Melbourne. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.
Croft was the hero for Melbourne. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.

Croft the hero as Storm escape gallant Warriors

Same spot, six days apart. Only thing different, the result … if only just.

Brodie Croft had two shots on goal to sink the Roosters on Good Friday from directly in front and failed, coming up wide and short in the grand final replay.

Croft had no such problems, with the game on the line (again), against the Warriors, in front of a crowd of 21,539 and scores locked at 12-12 the playmaker delivered the knockout blow - albeit off the left upright - a 35m field goal to clinch another hard-fought victory.

Croft's heroics came despite the young halfback nursing a groin injury after practising extra kicks in the captain's run.

"That's how be basically hurt it yesterday," Bellamy said.

"To his credit, he's very diligent with his extras and his kicking.

"After training yesterday he did a lot of normal kicks and we decided just after training that Cameron (Smith) wouldn't be kicking goal kicks again."

Croft's sealer capped an otherwise "scattered" night from the 2018 grand finalists, who battled for consistency and momentum throughout the hard-fought clash.

"I just thought we were really scattered in the first half with the ball," Bellamy said.

"I wasn't quite sure where we were going and what we were doing, we spoke about it at half-time actually.

"We had some errors in the first half but I don't know how many times the ball hit the ground either."

Croft was the hero for Melbourne. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.
Croft was the hero for Melbourne. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.

One thing about the 2019 Storm is the purple team is always in the hunt. The Warriors left AAMI Park deserving winners, on paper and in the grandstands potentially, but not on the scoreboard.

GROIN OR GAME MANAGEMENT?

ANZAC Medallist Cameron Smith has forgone goalkicking duties the past two weeks due to a minor groin complaint but the question must be asked, is the skipper playing possum?

Smith, 35, ran superbly against the Warriors and had no trouble kicking in general play.

Off the tee, however, the NRL record-breaker was nowhere to be seen, with Cameron Munster taking the job after Croft also pulled up with a tight groin.

The thing about having Smith marshalling the troops, as the kicker sets up the shot, is he is the best in the business at doing it.

The Warriors fought hard despite being undermanned. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.
The Warriors fought hard despite being undermanned. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.

With the result on the line it was Smith in the huddle point and barking orders. Moments after Munster's penalty goal the Steeden found its way to Croft and the rest is history.

Cooper Cronk used to lead the huddle previously, then Billy Slater last year, along with Dale Finucane and Will Chambers, but if Smith's "groin" keeps playing up the skipper's role in the middle could be even more important.

METRE-EATER

Jahrome Hughes was on a hiding to nothing as the replacement for Billy Slater and yet after seven matches in the coveted No.1 jersey the only things said about him are good.

Hughes, in short, is relentless. The 24 year-old Kiwi kept Storm in the hunt with good organisation in the backfield, determined runs, and a timely try under immense pressure from all angles.

The Storm very nearly went down. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.
The Storm very nearly went down. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.

Even after getting his leg/knee wrenched after scoring next to the uprights the speedster got back up and buttered up again. Hughes amassed 170m from 15 runs, three tackle busts an offload.

SLEEPY, SLOPPY, SCRAPPY

IT sounds like a cheesy advertising slogan but it is only way to describe Melbourne's poor starts.

For the third consecutive week Storm leaked points, off the back of errors, to trail the Warriors 8-0 after nine minutes.

The Roosters piled on 20 unanswered points last week, the Cowboys eight the week before, and the Bulldogs 12 the week before that.

For the third week in a row, Melbourne started slow. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.
For the third week in a row, Melbourne started slow. AAP Image/Hamish Blair.

All the talk out of Storm going into Anzac Day revolved around starting well. Was anyone in purple listening?

Miscued passes, loose carries and blown tackles allowed the undermanned Warriors, who went into the game without Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green, to dictate terms despite Storm pegging back the margin with a brilliant Cameron Munster try.

The Queensland and Australian star set up and finished the four-pointer after Josh Addo-Carr spiked the Steeden back into play, like a volleyball player, for Munster to score without breaking stride.

MELBOURNE 13 (J Hughes C Munster tries C Munster 2 goals B Croft field goal) bt NZ WARRIORS 12 (A Blair K Maumalo tries C Harris-Tavita 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Referee: Matt Cecchin, David Munro. Crowd: 21,539

News Corp Australia


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