League: Broncos ride out the Storm

By Chris Rattue

Broncos 15 Storm 8

Brisbane claimed its sixth premiership title to give their legendary prop Shane Webcke the perfect send-off into retirement, beating Melbourne in Sydney last night.

It was the granite-like prop whose 73rd minute stampede, as he fought off tiredness and Melbourne defenders, which set up the position for Darren Lockyer's field goal which sealed the victory.

Melbourne, the minor premiers, failed to get the rub of the green on two or three vital decisions in the final quarter which helped nudge the NRL grand final Brisbane's way.

In front of an 82,000 crowd at Telstra Stadium, the big Broncos forwards retained just enough in the tank to keep Melbourne and their much vaunted young centre Greg Inglis at bay.

Brisbane found its title winning feet again after a six-year drought in the first final between two non-Sydney teams, and gave their coach Wayne Bennett a record sixth title.

The game opened at a rip roaring pace but predictions of a high scoring final proved off the mark despite first quarter tries to both sides.

Brisbane's 60th minute try to centre Brent Tate broke an 8-all deadlock, with Darren Lockyer heavily involved in the buildup which saw Tate crash over in the corner.

But around that, Melbourne certainly had some cause for complaint. A Brisbane penalty goal came after referee Paul Simpkins missed a marginal obstruction offence by the Broncos, and the Storm's brilliant fullback Billy Slater was harshly adjudged to have put a high tackle on a falling Shaun Berrigan.

And the towering, mop-topped Storm centre Matt King may have been unfairly denied a try by the video referee, after Broncos fullback Justin Hodges spilled a bomb under a challenge.

Brisbane took the luck and the trophy.

"I daren't think this could happen - it's unbelievable," said Webcke shortly after the final hooter and minutes later, he thrust the trophy skyward in celebration.

Lockyer told the Broncos fans: "We'll see you back in Brisbane and have a beer together."

The first flash of try-producing brilliance in the match came from Storm playmaker Scott Hill, who spun around Brisbane tacklers including Lockyer then unloaded a pass behind around Broncos wing Darius Boyd for Steve Turner to touch down.

Brisbane had an 8-4 lead by the 19th minute, when Lockyer ran across the field and put Hodges through a massive hole in the defence. The Broncos held that lead at halftime.

The game looked set to ignite early in the second half with a skirmish following a high Hodges tackle on Storm captain Cameron Smith. But the flare-ups went no further as the players tired after a hectic first half.

King lumbered over the line in the 49th minute to tie the score at 8-all, before the Broncos pulled away in the final quarter.

It was a gripping final although the attacking fireworks that many predicted did not quite eventuate. Fullbacks Hodges and Slater were among the stars, but the Craig Bellamy-coached Melbourne did not react to their highest standards when under pressure in the final stanza.

It will be remembered as Webcke's triumph. He showed his determination and class in the final stages.

Broncos 15 (J. Hodges, B. Tate tries; D. Lockyer 2 pen, con, field goal).

Storm 8 (S. Turner, M. King tries). HT 8-4.

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