The Storm continue to remain a bogey team for the Broncos after collapsing late in the match. The hoodoo was ensured by a masterclass from their skipper, Cameron Smith, who proved that his decision to retire from representative football was the correct one. Here are five things we learned from this match:
1 Storm benefit from Smith’s representative retirement
Storm skipper Cameron Smith had opted to draw the curtain on his representative career, which surprised many in the world of rugby league or sport in general. However, when hearing that his reasons for opting to retire from representative duty included spending more time with his family, it made an abundance of sense, given the amount of traveling involved, as well as having to back up the subsequent weekend for his club. Moreover, it would appear that the Storm would be the main beneficiaries of this decision.
And so it proved. Smith admitted that he felt great coming into training and preparing for this match, and there is minimal doubt that not having to back up from Origin duty assisted greatly. The freshness of Smith proved to be one of the main differences between the sides, as he finished the match with 246 kicking metres and 50 tackles, along with a 94% efficiency rate. Thus, his kicking game frequently caused the Broncos problems, as they were regularly pinned on their own line. Moreover, his 50 tackles ensured he led the tackle count for both his team and the match.
2 Broncos collapse badly when chance to win presented to them
After skipping out to a 12-2 lead, and leading 12-8 at the break, as well as being within striking distance at 20-16 with 15 minutes remaining, the Broncos would concede a couple of late tries to the Storm, to eventually be accounted for, to the tune of 32-16. The first part of aforementioned sentence suggested that the Broncos began the match in dominant fashion, and were indeed the dominant team for the first half. However, after scoring only one further try and conceding four converted tries to the Storm, there was certainly a fade out which would have concerned their coach, Wayne Bennett.
And concern him it did. After seeing his team dominate the Storm in the first period, he was horrified to witness the Broncos drop-off rather dramatically in the second half, as they conceded 24 points to their opponents, while only scoring 4 points of their own in response. In addition, despite finishing with a lower missed tackle and error count than the Storm, they ended up conceding 12 penalties for the match (compared to 7 for the Storm). In addition, the missed tackles in the second half certainly did not help matters. As such, Bennett was at a loss to explain how his team could fade out so dramatically.
3 Storm continue dominance over the Broncos
With this 32-16 victory, the Storm have consolidated on their overall dominance of the Broncos, with the victory count now at 31 out of 45 matches for the southerners. The first half suggested that the Broncos might actually pull one back in their overall hapless record against the Storm, and had it not been for a spectacular second half collapse, it could well have eventuated.
As such, the Storm find themselves to be one of four teams to hold a positive head-to-head record over the Broncos. The only other teams to hold a positive overall record against the Broncos are the Sea Eagles (22 wins, 21 losses and a draw), St Helens (2 wins and 1 loss) and Warrington Wolves (1 win and no losses).
However, none of the aforementioned teams have dominated the Bronx in the manner that the Storm have. As has been previously alluded to on a number of occasions, the Storm had established their dominance over the Broncos since Craig Bellamy emerged from Bennett’s shadow at the Broncos, to take the reigns at the Storm. One wonders what the overall record could have been like if he remained at the Broncos, as was originally planned.
4 Where to now for Craig Bellamy?
Prior to the match, there has been an immense amount of speculation that Bellamy may leave the Storm to return to Brisbane to coach the Broncos. The Storm have said that they remain confident of retaining his services, and given the multitude of success he has brought to the club, it’s hardly surprising that they are unwilling to let him go. On the other hand, the Broncos are desperate to bring him back to where he emerged from Bennett’s shadow. Thus, it’s also of minimal surprise that they are prepared to open their coffers to tempt him to make the move.
There may not be too many who may be aware of this, however Bellamy was in the succession plan to succeed Bennett as head coach of the Broncos whenever Bennett retired or departed the club. That plan obviously has not come to fruition, given he made the decision to establish his own top-level coaching career by taking the hot seat at the Storm. The rest, as they say, is history.
However, given there is every chance that Bennett may not be at the Broncos in the next few seasons (he is certainly in a position to retire from coaching), the club is desperate to bring in a coach who is of a similar mound to Bennett, and who better than Bellamy? With Bellamy to decide his future within the next few days, the big question remains whether he remains at the Storm, or returns to the Broncos? Moreover, the result of this match can influence whether the Storm win has convinced Bellamy to attempt to bring further success to the Storm, or seek a fresh challenge elsewhere?
5 Broncos retain spot in top eight for the time being
Given the 9th placed Tigers had lost their earlier match to the Sharks, the Broncos had quite an opportunity to consolidate on their place in the top eight with a victory in this match. For the first 40 minutes, they seemed on course for victory. Unfortunately a terrible second half collapse saw them miss this opportunity.
Whilst they still find themselves in 8th place with one more win than the Tigers, their points differential is vastly inferior to the Tigers. Therefore, next Saturday evening’s match against the Sharks at Cronulla is a must win for the Broncos. If they lose that match, they will endure a nervous 24-hour wait for the result of the Tigers’ home match against the Raiders, as they play the following Sunday. Should the Tigers win their match, they will draw level on points with the Broncos, but will leapfrog them on the basis of points differential.
As for the Storm, this win sees them improve their position from 6th to 5th, although they’re still not in the top four, where they undoubtedly prefer to be. They find themselves behind the Warriors with one less win. However, due to a vastly superior points differential, they can leapfrog the Warriors into the top four. This depends on whether the Warriors lose their match against the Cowboys in Townsville, and whether they defeat the Knights in Newcastle.
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