By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy revealed he would have given the job of kicking the winning field goal in an amazing comeback win over Manly to someone else if he’d known captain Cameron Smith had not booted one in his NRL career.
The Storm trailed 20-0 eight minutes before halftime, levelled the scores 15 minutes into the second half, hit the from with 13 left in regulation time and secured an historic when when captain Smith – playing a club record equaling 262nd game – booted a 22-metre field goal four minutes into overtime.
It was Manly’s worst capitulation at home and Melbourne’s equal-second biggest comeback, although hooker Smith described it as the best in which he had been involved.
“It’s the first field goal I’ve kicked since under 16s, actually – back at Logan Brothers,” Smith said. “The best I have is a couple of pot shots at the end of the week from 40 out, as a lot of footballers do … I don’t do any practice at all.”
The admission surprised Bellamy, who commented: “We sent out the message for Cameron to do it … I hadn’t realised he hadn’t kicked one before, I wouldn’t have made that decision if I’d known. We probably would have gone (Benny Roberts) on Benny Hampton”
The Sea Eagles were cruising at 20-0 when fullback Brett Stewart sought attention for a sore hamstring 10 minutes before halftime. Stewart did not return for the second half and in his absence, Australia captain Smith took firm control of proceedings.
The 29-year-old’s bomb to the north-eastern corner gave winger Sisa Waqa his first try seven minutes short of halftime and the long road back continued six after the resumption of play when the Fijian completed his brace off the pass of Billy Slater.
Again it was the no.9’s scheming which gave five-eighth Ben Hampton a 52nd-minute try – converted by Smith – that narrowed the gap to six.
The spirits of the 14,000 crowd, dampened by a rain shower, were completely drowned when Kenny Bromwich crossed between the posts after Hampton fielded a kick and Jesse Bromwich almost knocked on at 55 minutes.
The penalty which allowed Smith to boot his side ahead for the first time also landed Manly tryscorer Justin Horo on report for a high tackle. A penalty at the other end gave Lyon the chance to square things up and magnificent defence from Ryan Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hoffman precent a Cheyse Blair try shortly after the start of golden point time. Ben Roberts missed a field goal attempt before Smith’s successful pot-shot.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey admitted the loss of Stewart – who hopes to play against South Sydney on Friday – had been a turning point “but when you’re up by 20 points at Brookvale Oval, you don’t lose from there.
“There was a massive change in posession. It will be interesting to watch the video and see what happened.”
Bellamy said: “The score could have been more in the first half, we made some bad decisions in defence.
“We’ve got a few young guys in our side who it probably would have been easy for them to be shellshocked by that score. They made a couple of errors as well but they didn’t go away, they kept doing their job.”
According to Lyon, former Eagle George Rose knocked on while playing the ball, shortly before the end of regulation time. “It’s a bit hard (for the ball) to get from your hands to your feed without dropping it when you’re on the ground,” Lyon said.
Lyon approached referee Gerard Sutton about the alleged fumble but Rose countered: “It didn’t happen. Killer always goes up to the ref. That’s why they changed the rule!”
MELBOURNE 23 (S Waqa 2 B Hampton K Bromwich tries C Smith 3 goals field goal) bt MANLY 22 (S Matai 2 C Blair J Horo tries J Lyon 3 goals) in golden point time at Brookvale Oval. Referees: G Sutton/G Reynolds. Crowd: 14,200.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD