Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: History riding on the Storm

The Storm's minor premiership hopes are clouded. Photo / Getty Images
The Storm's minor premiership hopes are clouded. Photo / Getty Images

Storm 16
Cowboys 20

If you weren't watching last night, you missed a slice of history. The Storm fell to their third consecutive NRL loss, a unlikely hat-trick that has happened only once before this decade.

But the Cowboys were good value for the win, superbly led by Johnathan Thurston. They were the dominant team for long periods and created more, and better, opportunities.

As for the Storm ... they just aren't the same team without Billy Slater. Their attack has lost its edge and the highly structured play looked a bit predictable. Gareth Widdup looked a promising deputy but it is hard to replace the best player in the world.

This was the Cowboys' first win in Victoria since 2001 and provides a massive boost for their top four ambitions. Meanwhile, Craig Bellamy will be scratching his head. Just over a month ago the minor premiership looked virtually assured, now their quest is complicated.

The Storm started well, Matt Duffie showing his athletic prowess to open the scoring in the 11th minute off a precise Cooper Cronk bomb.

Seven minutes later Thurston and Matt Bowen combined beautifully to send Linnett across.

The rest of the half featured plenty of open football with the visitors having the better chances. The theme continued in the second half, with the Cowboys breaking the line regularly without managing the finishing touch. After the Storm received consecutive penalties, a smart decoy play saw Widdup score off a pinpoint Cameron Smith grubber in the 56th minute.

Again the visitors were quick to reply. Thurston created something out of nothing with a chip-and-chase and a kind bounce allowed Brent Tate to score four minutes later. The Queensland five eighth was a man on a mission last night and prised open the Storm defence once more, sending Linnett over in the 69th minute.

In an ugly incident Smith slid his knees into Linnett as he scored and perhaps only the Australian captain's reputation saved him from the sinbin. Anthony Quinn's 75th-minute try gave the home fans hope but it was too little, too late.

Storm 16 (M. Duffie, G. Widdup, A. Quinn tries; C. Smith 2 goals) Cowboys 20 (K. Linnett 2, B. Tate tries, J. Thurston 4 goals). Halftime: 6-4.

- Herald on Sunday

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