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Croft kicks Storm to NRL win over Cowboys

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/06/2017 Melissa Woods

Melbourne Storm's post-Cooper Cronk future is in safe hands, with teenage halfback Brodie Croft nailing a field goal in extra time to secure a 23-22 NRL win over North Queensland.

With veteran Cronk absent on State of Origin duty and leaving at the end of the year, 19-year-old Croft put his hand up to replace him in a thrilling finale at AAMI Park - his first game of the season.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said Croft had spent a lot of time at training this week practising his field goals.

"He worked hard and he got rewarded for that tonight and we got rewarded for it," Bellamy said.

"I'm sure there's going to be whole heap more time when he's going to come up with some really important plays in games."

The match went into golden point when Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt showed nerves of steel to nail a penalty goal after the fulltime siren to level the score at 22-22.

The Storm looked comfortable with just three minutes remaining, holding a 22-14 lead but North Queensland second rower Kane Linnett crossed and Feldt added the extras.

With 10 seconds on the clock, Melbourne prop Nelso Asofa-Solomona was penalised for taking out hooker Jake Granville, with Feldt again on target to set up the extra time.

Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote had first crack at a field goal but his effort fell short, before Croft's winning reply.

Another 19-year-old, centre Curtis Scott, scored a try in each half also in his first match of the year for the home side, while 21-year-old livewire hooker Brandon Smith got in on the action with a second half try.

Melbourne were missing five Maroons including big guns Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, while the Cowboys were without Johnathan Thurston among four Origin representatives.

Despite the weakened line-ups and some criticism of the scheduling of the contest in the middle of the Origin period, it was a quality game.

Three Storm tries - through Smith, Scott and Felice Kaufusi - in a six-minute period midway through the second half stunned the visitors and they looked to have the win in hand.

But the Cowboys delivered a final flourish - and then Croft showed his mettle under pressure.

While the Storm maintained their lead at the top of the competition ladder, North Queensland are still in the top eight.

Coach Paul Green said he was really proud of the performance given they were down on troops and had five-eighth Kyle Laybutt making his NRL debut.

"There was just a little period where defensively we weren't in the contest and they got a couple of tries which was disappointing because for most of it we were right in there and played really well," Green said.

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