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Brodie Croft stars, Billy Slater injured in Melbourne’s World Club Challenge win over Leeds
February 17, 2018 6:41am
Melbourne youngster Brodie Croft has starred in Friday night’s 38-4 win over Leeds in the 2018 World Club Challenge.
All eyes were on the 20-year-old as he ran out at AAMI Park in the Storm No.7, the jersey Cooper Cronk owned for 12 years before his departure at the end of last season.
But Croft handled the pressure without error, scoring a try and setting up three others as the Storm ran away with another piece of silverware.
Cronk 2.0 shines for StormCronk 2.0 shines for Storm1:01
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When asked post-match what he wanted to get out of the game, Croft said: “Just to back myself and be confident with my calls and plays.
“I’ve got some world class players around me that really helps. Sometimes you can get a little bit overawed. In the position I play, I’ve got to be dominant and demanding.”
Croft didn’t take long to inject himself into the game, setting up Jesse Bromwich with a lovely soft pass in the 17th minute, before he bagged one himself moments later.
Slater's shoulder scareSlater's shoulder scare0:45
His two other try assists came midway through the second half, first with another short pass to Felise Kaufusi before a cross field kick resulted in a Will Chambers four-pointer.
Fox League expert Mark Gasnier couldn’t help but praise Croft’s outing.
“A+ performance,” Gasnier said.
“He controlled the team with the help of Cameron Smith. He’s got such a composed head for his age.
“Off the back of offloads, Smith went to Croft, he went straight to Will Chambers. He knows his team’s strengths really well and he doesn’t try to overplay his hand.
“He goes to the line and plays straight and takes pressure of Smith when need be. He also defended well which is important for the Storm.”
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The victory, however, was somewhat soured with superstar fullback Billy Slater failing to feature in the second half after falling awkwardly on his shoulder on the stroke of halftime.
Melbourne's shaky startMelbourne's shaky start0:30
Concerningly, it was the same shoulder that had kept the veteran sidelined for almost two full seasons.
The Storm reported shortly after the break that Slater had “jarred” his shoulder and it was a precautionary measure to end his night early.
“There was a little bit of pain to start with,” Slater admitted post-match.
“ ... It wasn’t too serious but we’ll just err on the side of caution.
“Hopefully everything’s okay and it’ll be all right in a couple of days.”
The Super League titleholders scored first when they took advantage of successive penalties.
Lock Stevie Ward caught the Storm out on the short side with big winger Ryan Hall diving across in the corner in the ninth minute.
Croft managed to get in on the act soon after when he laid on a perfectly timed pass for prop Jesse Bromwich to charge through the middle to touch down.
The young Queenslander then took on the defence himself with the video referee ruling momentum had carried him over the line to break a 4-4 deadlock.
The home side started to take control of the match and dealt the Rhinos a massive blow right on halftime when Croft found Suliasi Vunivalu.
The winger showed his athleticism as he stepped in and around five Leeds players for their third try and an 18-4 lead.
Brodie Croft of the Storm scores a try during the World Club Challenge.
Leeds’ cause wasn’t helped with the loss of Ward (calf) and fullback Jack Walker (knee), while they arrived in Melbourne down on size after injuries to four props.
— with AAP