Cooper Cronk showed why he’s the best in the business as he orchestrated a stunning Melbourne Storm fight-back to topple Manly 22-19 at AAMI Park.
The Storm looked down and out with less than 10 minutes remaining but the Test halfback scored a brilliant try of his own and then delivered a pin-point kick across field for a flying Kurt Mann to touch down and regain the lead.
Centre Mann, making is NRL debut, was a late substitution for Mahe Fonua.
The victory meant that Melbourne snapped a two-game losing streak and stopped the Sea Eagles going clear on top of the NRL ladder in a match with similarities to their opening round clash in which the Storm scored a dramatic 23-22 win after trailing 20-0.
On the back of much improved defence, the Storm’s attack also looked far more dangerous on Saturday night.
Billy Slater scored a try in each half but his game lost some shine when he was put on report early in the second half for a swinging arm with Manly winger David Williams leaving the field with concussion.
Five-eighth Ben Hampton was also put on report for a lifting tackle on Tom Symonds.
The Storm were seething after video referees Ashley Klein and Ben Galea over-ruled referee Shayne Hayne to award a Manly try in the 26th minute.
Williams and Young Tonumaipea leapt high for a Daly Cherry-Evans kick with Williams appearing to knock the ball forward and Slater and Peta Hiku both scrambled to ground the ball.
Despite the footage being inconclusive that Hayne’s initial decision was wrong, the video refs gave the green light to Manly.
The Storm hit back soon after when from a set play Ryan Hoffman popped a trademark off-load to Slater to level at 4-4.
They trailed 5-4 at halftime after a last-minute field goal from five-eighth Jack Littlejohn.
But they were first on the scoreboard after Slater ran on to a Hampton pass and beat Brett Stewart to touch down for this second four-pointer.
Just when it appeared the home side was building some momentum Manly hit back with a freaky effort from Jorge Tafua.
The winger somehow managed to plant the ball as he somersaulted over the sideline in a tackle by Sisa Waqa.
Four minutes later the lead was out to 19-10 when Jamie Buhrer caught the Storm napping as he charged from the back of the scrum to touch down and it looked like it would be Manly’s game.
But Cronk somehow managed to kick a little grubber around Littlejohn, regathering to score before Mann’s effort sealed the win.