Melbourne roll into Brisbane tonight for an absolute blockbuster, and despite some high-profile absentees and a poor record against the Storm, Broncos fans will be quietly confident of a home victory over the competition front-runners.
But memories of playing Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium inevitably back-track to a heartbreaking night in September 2008 for Brisbane supporters, when a Greg Inglis try at the death bounced the Broncos out of the premiership race.
Melbourne kept its premiership defence alive with a heart-stopping last-minute victory over Brisbane in one of the modern era’s most dramatic finals matches. The scene was already set for a classic showdown, with the bitter rivalry between the two clubs to be played out in front of 50,000-plus fans at Suncorp Stadium in potentially Wayne Bennett’s final game in charge of the Broncos.
The Broncos were also under siege after three of their rep stars became embroiled in a public furore surrounding an alleged sexual assault just days earlier. But the home side showed no signs of their torrid build-up by powering to a 12-0 halftime lead over the favourites. The three players at the centre of the allegations – Karmichael Hunt, Sam Thaiday and Darius Boyd – combined to open the scoring, with Boyd finishing off some superb lead-up work, before fellow winger Denan Kemp scored Brisbane’s second try after a brilliant team movement.
— The81stMinute (@The81stMinute) September 11, 2015
Melbourne was on the board after halftime when Israel Folau – bound for the Broncos in 2009 – set Michael Crocker up for a try, but tempers frayed soon after, when Cameron Smith and Jeremy Smith performed an ugly grapple tackle on Thaiday. The pair subsequently received two- and one-match bans respectively, while Storm prop Jeff Lima was sin-binned two minutes later for a late challenge on Michael Ennis, allowing Corey Parker to boot the Broncos to a 14-6 lead.
Boyd was denied a second try by the video referee, and when Billy Slater scored next to the posts, the deficit was cut to two. The Broncos appeared to have wrapped up a famous upset in the dying minutes when prop Ben Hannant crashed over – invoking a rare display of emotion from the usually stony-faced Bennett – but the video referee ruled Hannant had been held up.
With a minute and a half to play and the home side working the ball out of their own territory, a crunching tackle by Storm interchange forward Sika Manu on Broncos counterpart Ashton Sims jolted the ball free. Melbourne utilised a blindside overlap in the ensuing possession and Greg Inglis, who was earlier denied a freakish try by the video ref, crossed in the corner to steal the match 16-14. Brisbane captain Darren Lockyer’s anguished scream while wandering amongst his devastated troops was one of the year’s most poignant images.
— Melbourne Storm (@storm) July 24, 2014
Boyd, Thaiday, Corey Parker and Adam Blair – then with the Storm – are the survivors of that epic battle who will line up on Friday against the Cowboys, who will field an ex-Bronco from 2008 in Hannant.
Meanwhile, Smith and Cooper Cronk are preparing for Melbourne’s preliminary final assignment, and another two Broncos survivors, Michael Ennis (Cronulla) and Peter Wallace (Penrith), remain alive in the 2016 premiership race.