Melbourne has survived a late scare from North Queensland to register a club record 15th straight win by 20-16 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium tonight.
The Cowboys were brave but simply couldn't handle the Storm outside backs in Justin Olam and Josh Addo-Carr who created his own record, scoring two tries to register his 100th NRL career try in a gritty win by Craig Bellamy's side.
The Cowboys to their credit pushed the Storm all the way but just couldn't quite get the win in front of their home fans. However, North Queensland fans will be proud of the improvement in effort from their side, who were missing a number of strike weapons
in Valentine Holmes and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow who were out injured. The injuries forced 32-year-old hooker Jake Granville into fullback and the veteran more than held his own in a solid display.
Melbourne came into the match heavy favourites and they clicked immediately into the gear with their first opportunity, when Nicho Hynes and Kenny Bromwich combined down the left-hand side to put Addo-Carr away down the sideline to open the scoring. Hynes then converted from out wide and the Storm led 6-0 early.
The Video Referee then entered the game, denying the home side two tries in a matter of minutes, firstly to Kyle Feldt and then to debutant Kane Bradley in heartbreaking circumstances for Cowboys fans.
Not to be outdone, the Storm were then denied a try to a rampaging Justin Olam, which saw Brandon Smith controversially penalised for running behind his own runner in the lead up.
Olam however couldn't be denied for a second time, when Addo-Carr made another break down the left-hand side. The Blues winger then lobbed the ball over the top with a neat kick, which then bounced into the arms of Olam who scored the Storm's second try of the night. Hynes missed the conversion and it was 10-0 after 20 minutes.
North Queensland were repelling the Storm and putting in a brave effort. They were then rewarded just before halftime, when Cowboys makeshift fullback Jake Granville jumped into his more familiar dummy half position with seconds remaining. Granville then found Coen Hess close to the line, who then wrestled his way over to finally get the ball down and get the Cowboys on the board to give them a boost in confidence and Melbourne's lead was narrowed to 10-6 at the break.
The Cowboys struck first to take the lead after halftime, when winger Kyle Feldt scored his 100th NRL try following some quick hands from the Cowboys backline, allowing the
Queensland winger to reach out and score in the corner. Drinkwater then converted from the sideline to give North Queensland a shock 12-10 lead over the defending premiers.
Melbourne needed a spark and they got it when Jahrome Hughes produced a chip kick over the top on the last, with the ball bouncing favourably for Storm winger Dean Ieremia. The Storm rookie then soccered the ball back on the inside, which popped up for Reimis Smith to score a try and give the Storm back the ascendency the lead to 16-12.
Melbourne then iced the game moments later when Addo-Carr scored his second and 100th NRL try, after Hynes and Olam combined off a set play to put the Bulldogs bound winger over in the corner for his 21st try of the year and a comfortable 20-12 lead.
The Cowboys as was the theme all night refused to go away, when debutant Kane Bradley managed to score on debut in the corner to narrow the lead to just four points with minutes remaining.
The Storm were too strong however, managing to hold onto a gutsy win and continue their drive towards another Minor Premiership.
Melbourne will now turn their attention to the Grand Final replay in the most anticipated game of the season next Saturday night against the Panthers.
North Queensland will be hoping to continue their strong showing against the defending premiers when they face their bitter rivals the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium next Friday night.