Melbourne Storm win hammers Brisbane Broncos minor premiership hopes

Melbourne’s Ryan Papenhuyzen and Sualauvi Faalogo celebrate the rookie’s first of two tries on Thursday night.

Melbourne’s Ryan Papenhuyzen and Sualauvi Faalogo celebrate the rookie’s first of two tries on Thursday night. Photo: AAP

Melbourne has continued its 14-year dominance of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium with a 32-22 win that has opened the door for Penrith to claim the NRL minor premiership.

Storm’s Thursday night victory, which featured an electrifying NRL debut by 20-year-old fullback Sua Fa’alogo off the bench, took it temporarily into third position on the ladder.

It means that the order of the NRL top four, and who plays who in the first week of the finals, will not be known until the conclusion of Saturday’s games when second-placed Penrith hosts North Queensland and New Zealand Warriors play the Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium.

The Panthers will overtake Brisbane to finish first if they win and the Warriors will return to third on the ladder and leapfrog Storm if they are victorious.

Storm and Broncos both had 11 front-line players on the sidelines but the crowd of 43,271 were treated to a glimpse of the next group of rising stars in the NRL.

Fa’alogo scored a double in a performance that showcased speed and skill reminiscent of rested Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh. Broncos fullback Tristan Sailor was on fire for the hosts.

Storm, which has not lost to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium since 2009, will also be heartened by the superb display of fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen in just his second game back from a broken kneecap.

Stand-in Broncos captain Thomas Fleger hails from a banana farm in the northern Queensland town of Tully and fans brought bananas to the ground and raised them in the eighth minute in tribute to the 24-year-old, who is leaving the club to join the Dolphins in 2024.

Flegler went bananas on the field, storming over to score in the fourth minute.

Sailor, with his illustrious father Wendell in the stands, then sent winger Jordan Pereira over in the corner with a perfectly timed cutout pass.

Storm five-eighth Jayden Nikorima set up winger Grant Anderson for a try with a deft grubber kick before Anderson snaffled an intercept and raced 70 metres to score.

Sailor was outstanding at the back with his running, passing and kicking game.

The injection of Fa’alogo off the bench changed the game.

The debutant lit up the stadium with virtually his first touch in a 70-metre try after an interchange of passing with Papenhuyzen to give the visitors a 14-12 half-time lead.

Fa’alogo is the fifth Victorian to play NRL for Storm.

Sailor snaffled a bomb straight after the break to set Pereira up for his second try before the brilliant Papenhuyzen backed up halfback Tyran Wishart to lock it up at 20-all.

Storm winger Reimis Smith was sin-binned for a professional foul on Sailor after he had made a clean break but scored on his return to give his side a 26-22 lead before Fa’alogo iced the win with a scintillating show and go to score.

Broncos bench forward Xavier Willison (ankle) failed to finish the match.


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