NRL: Cronk leads Storm to win over Cowboys

Mahe Fonua of the Storm catches a high ball over Ashley Graham. Photo / Getty Images
Mahe Fonua of the Storm catches a high ball over Ashley Graham. Photo / Getty Images

The attacking genius of Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk led the Storm to a 32-10 NRL win over North Queensland on Saturday in Townsville.

Cronk played a part in five of Melbourne's six tries, scoring two himself, as well as pulling out a dramatic try-saving tackle as the Cowboys threw everything at a second-half comeback.

The Queensland and Australian No.7 tormented the home team in every department, making sure the Cowboys' first game at the newly named 1300SMILES Stadium was one to forget.

Cronk didn't take long to bring out the magic, passing inside for lock Ryan Hinchcliffe, who showed a clean pair of heals to burn Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen and score in the corner in the fourth minute.

That sparked the Cowboys into life, with five-eighth Johnathan Thurston pulling out two spectacular wide cut-out passes for winger Antonio Winterstein, with the New Zealand international switching inside for Kane Linnett to equalise on 11 minutes.

But after a sustained period of pressure by the Cowboys, Cronk restored the Storm's advantage by scoring his own try in the 29th minute and sending the last pass to Will Chambers two minutes before halftime to give the Storm a 16-6 lead.

To show he not only can produce in attack, Cronk held up Linnett in the left corner with a crucial try-saving tackle just minutes after the break.

Linnett had received an inside pass from Winterstein in the left corner, and Cronk managed to get a hand under the Cowboys player and ensured he couldn't cleanly get the ball down.

Just for good measure, Cronk barged over the Cowboys line on 49 minutes for his second try of the night and pushed the lead out to 14.

The Cowboys eventually hit back with winger Ashley Graham crossing in the corner in the 71st minute to build some hope for the home side after a 10-minute period of sustained pressure.

But Storm fullback Billy Slater ensured the Storm win when he jumped highest and knocked back a Cronk bomb for Chambers to bag his second try of the night on 75 minutes.

Ryan Hoffman put the final nail in the coffin with two minutes to go, Gareth Widdop putting the back-rower into a gap just metres out from the Cowboys line.

Not everything went the Storm's way, however, with Siosaia Vave put on report for a crusher tackle on Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott and centre Justin O'Neill taken off the field with 10 minutes remaining with a lost tooth and suspected broken jaw.

- AAP

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