The Cowboys were always up against it tonight. Staring down the barrel of eight straight losses, the Cowboys had the unenviable task of coming to a ground at which they have never won.
After putting aside the bad news of losing star fullback Matt Bowen for the remainder of the season, the Cowboys started well, dominating possession. They opened the scoring with a try to centre Mark Henry who out-leaped opposition winger Turner. The Cowboys clearly had done their homework on the Storm who have the worrying stat of being the worst in the competition at defusing kicks to the wings.
As possession started to swing back, the Storm went over through Jeremy Smith. Smith was a late addition to the starting line up as Crocker went back onto the bench. But the tenacious Cowboys hit back with a try to John Williams after great vision from Johnathan Thurston.
The tactics of the Cowboys were ostensibly effective in the first half. Kicks to the sideline, gamesmanship and a general slowing down of the tempo of the game made things difficult for the Storm juggernaut to click into gear.
Enter Greg Inglis. Three tries in the second half severely dented the admirable aspirations of the determined Cowboys side. The first try was a simple fend. The second a combination of rare speed and power. The third, pure effortless speed. This is a man high on confidence after his breathtaking Origin performance in game two.
There were also tries in the second half to Folau and Turner (2) but there was no doubting who brought the crowd to their feet tonight.
The Cowboys whilst gallant, now find themselves in last position after the scoreline blew out. A similar performance of this ilk next week against the Rabbitohs should be rewarded. The Storm however keep rolling on into outright first position, as they approach the third match without their Origin stars next weekend away to Parramatta.
Melbourne Storm 48 Tries: Jeremy Smith, Billy Slater, Matt Geyer, Israel Folau, Greg Inglis (3), Steve Turner (2) Goals: Cameron Smith (6/9) North Queensland Cowboys 20 Tries: Mark Henry, John Williams, Carl Webb, Ray Cashmere Goals: Johnathan Thurston (2/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Touch Judges: David Abood, Peter Kirby Video Referee: Phil Cooley STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Matt Geyer 4. Israel Folau 5. Anthony Quinn 6. Greg Inglis 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jeff Lima 9. Cam Smith (c) 10. Brett White 11. Michael Crocker 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Jeremy Smith 15. Antonio Kaufusi 16. Sika Manu 17. Adam Blair; Reserves: 18. Aiden Tolman COWBOYS: 1. Anthony Watts 2. Mark Henry 3. Ashley Graham 4. Ben Harris 5. Ben Farrar 6. Chris Sheppard 7. Johnathan Thurston (c) 8. Ray Cashmere 9. Aaron Payne 10. Carl Webb 11. Sione Faumuina 12. Jacob Lillyman 13. Dayne Weston Interchange: 14. Sam Faust 15. Matt Bartlett 16. Scott Bolton 17. Shane Tronc
Two teams heralded as Premiership contenders at the start of the season go into battle tonight holding contrasting positions. The Storm have lived up to the lofty expectations, whilst the Cowboys face the daunting task of avoiding a demoralising 8th straight loss at a ground where they have never beaten the Storm.
The Cowboys have a host of changes. Chris Shepherd and Dayne Weston are out of the side. John Williams comes into the team onto the wing, moving Mark Henry into the centres. Centre Ben Harris moves into the pack at backrow, whilst Sione Faumuina moves from the backrow to play five-eighth. Sam Faust moves from the bench into the pack and the new man on the bench is debutant backrower Greg Byrnes from the Northern Pride side in the QLD cup.
The Storm have youngster Joseph Tomane coming onto the bench to replace Kaufusi, whilst Jeremy Smith starts in place of Crocker who goes back to the bench.
The players are now coming onto the field.
Cowboys KICK OFF. 1st Half underway.
1 min: Storm error from the kick off. Cowboys on the attack.
1 min: Farrar taken over into touch. Pressure off.
4 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Mark Henry TRY! High kick from Thurston sees Henry leap above Turner to claim a try. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 4-0
9 min: Storm go close in Dallas Johnson. Well defended by the Cowboys.
10 min: Penalty Storm. Storm on the attack.
11 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Jeremy Smith TRY! A determined run from the kiwi backrower, straight through some feeble defence to score besides the posts. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-4
16 min: Penalty Cowboys. Cowboys on the attack. Lillyman taken off through injury.
17 min: A knock on from the Storm will give the Cowboys another set of six.
18 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys John Williams TRY! Tremendous vision by Johnathan Thurston finds Williams with a cross field kick. Williams in untouched. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 8-6
22 min: Thurston runs the ball on the last and the Cowboys go close through Henry and Farrar. Scrum feed Cowboys after a Storm kick smother.
23 min: Some nice work from the Cowboys has gone unrewarded. Henry taken into touch. Great defence Storm.
24 min: INJURY UPDATE - Lillyman . . dislocated elbow.
25 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Billy Slater TRY! Simple play from a scrum, as Geyer pierces through a half break finding the flying Slater on his outside. Disappointing for the Cowboys. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 12-8
30 min: Possession evening up after early Cowboys dominance.
33 min: Both teams grinding away.
34 min: Very noticeable the tactics of the Cowboys. A lot of kicking to find the sideline.
35 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Matt Geyer TRY! A lovely kick from Cronk found a wide running Inglis who scooped the ball from the air effortlessly and found Geyer on the inside for a great try. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 16-8
37 min: Short kick off by the Cowboys comes off. Cowboys penalty.
38 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Carl Webb TRY! Carl Webb runs hard close to the line off a Payne pass. The Storm can't stop him. Great lift going into halftime. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. Melbourne Storm 16-14
Players back onto the field for the second half. Lillyman won't be back.
Storm KICK OFF. 2nd half underway.
43 min: Potential try to Turner being reviewed. Issue is the possibility of an obstruction.
43 min: NO TRY! Try disallowed due to a knock on. Turner appears to lose the ball under pressure from Mark Henry.
44 min: Penalty Storm. Right on the attack here.
44 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Israel Folau TRY! Too big too strong. Folau scores a trademark try close to the line, carrying over Cowboy defenders. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 22-14
46 min: Another variation with the kick offs for the Cowboys has paid dividends. Kick finds touch. Cowboys scrum.
48 min: Knock on by Hoffman will give the Cowboys another attacking set of six.
49 min: Pressure released through a Cowboys error.
51 min: Penalty to the Storm. Moves them into Cowboys territory.
52 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Greg Inglis TRY! A wide ball finds Inglis close to the line. With a great fend he manages to cross the stripe giving the Storm some breathing room. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 26-14
54 min: Yet another short kick off from the Cowboys. This time, penalised for offside. Storm penalty.
55 min: Possible try to Turner being reviewed. Very similar to the last play, checking for obstruction.
55 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Steve Turner TRY! A nicely run play from Storm, Folau draws in the defence with a decoy run. Slater wraps around and draws the winger to put Turner over. Still had some work to do to get the ball down. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 32-14
57 min: Cowboys short kick off. Paid dividends again. Cowboys scrum.
58 min: Cashmere appears to lose the ball over the line. Try being reviewed.
58 min: Try disallowed. Ruled to be a knock on.
60 min: A short kick from the Cowboys goes askew. Storm to keep the pressure on.
61 min: Early kick from the Storm releases the pressure on the Cowboys.
64 min: Cowboys go close. Super ball from Watts hits Graham on the fly. Graham's inside ball stolen by Inglis. Storm drop out.
65 min: Penalty Cowboys. Interference at the ruck by Cameron Smith.
66 min: Certain try bombed by John Williams. Nicely worked play sees Williams drops the ball with an open line in front.
66 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Greg Inglis TRY! Great ball from White finds Inglis on the fly. He rounds the fullback with a rare combination of strength and speed to score besides the posts. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 38-14
69 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Steve Turner TRY! A brilliant run from Folau as he screams into the clear with pure power. Draws the fullback to put Turner away. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 42-14
72 min: Possible try to Inglis being reviewed.
72 min: No Try, knock on.
73 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Greg Inglis TRY! An incredibly short chip and chase from Faumuina, leads to an intercept from Inglis who races away 80 metres to score his third try of the night. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 48-14
79 min: Match winding down. Cowyboys one last chance.
80 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Ray Cashmere TRY! Simple face ball from dummy half by Payne finds the giant prop who is too close to the line. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. Melbourne Storm 48-20