Cronk shines in Ballina trial

Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk has steered the Storm to a 38-18 victory over the Parramatta Eels. The pre-season trial was played in humid conditions over 20 minute quarters at Kingsford Smith Park in Ballina.

In a first half where referee Gavin Badger handed out 13 penalties, the Storm were able to stamp their authority on proceedings with tries to Billy Slater, Steve Turner and Matt Geyer, Cronk's kicking game was instrumental in setting up Geyer's try. Parramatta replied with tries to Luke O'Dwyer and Tim Smith, O'Dwyer's try being set up by new five-eighth Brett Delaney. The only injury in the first 40 minutes was Parramatta's Peter Lewis who was carted off after being flattened by Storm recruit Michael Crocker. Lewis was able to return to put in a strong performance in the second half.

At half time, Melbourne held a 16-12 lead.

The second half saw Parramatta experimenting with new combinations which resulted in numerous handling errors. Melbourne extended their lead and tries to Cronk in the 45th and 54th saw the score blow out to 28-12. Chris Walker, who limped off with cramp late in the match, and Kiwi international Jake Webster crossed as well to make in seven tries for the Storm. Jarryd Hayne scored Parramatta's only try in the second half.

Best player on the park was Melbourne's Cooper Cronk. Five-eighth Geyer and fullback Slater were standouts as well as Nathan Friend who came on to replace Cronk in the second half. Parramatta's Delaney, who appears to have 'bulked up' in the off-season played strongly. Halfback Tim Smith and utility Dean Widders who, along with Delaney, was trialed in the five-eighth position put in strong performances. Rookie forward Zeb Taia was also a standout for the Eels.

Tries: Cronk 2, Slater, Turner, Geyer, Walker, Webster
Goals: Inglis 3, C Smith 2
Tries: O'Dwyer, T Smith, Hayne
Goals: Burt 2 , Delaney

Half time: Storm 16-12
Three quarter time: 28-12

Kickoff: 5:45pm.
Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina.
Crowd: Approx 7,000
Referees: Gavin Badger and Steven Clark

Leagueunlimited Players of the match:
3 - C Cronk (Storm)
2 - M Geyer (Storm)
1 - B Slater (Storm)

Pic: Cooper Cronk (