The Broncos' Andrew McCullough faces a significant stretch on the sidelines after injuring his elbow against the Storm. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
The Broncos' Andrew McCullough faces a significant stretch on the sidelines after injuring his elbow against the Storm. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Broncos suffer injury blow in heated clash

BRISBANE's forward injury woes intensified after key hooker Andrew McCullough suffered a nasty elbow setback in the Broncos' crushing 34-20 loss to the Storm at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

In a game of high drama, the premiers rode their luck, Billy Slater benefiting from a controversial refereeing call as the champion fullback produced a two-try display to break Brisbane's hearts.

But amid the Slater masterclass, the Broncos were left to lament the sight of McCullough, arguably their most important player, departing in the 51st minute with a worrying elbow injury.

 

With Brisbane trailing 18-4, McCullough was felled by friendly fire, colliding with prop Joe Ofahengaue in a tackle.

It could mean up to two months on the sidelines for McCullough, in a body blow for a Broncos side that just last week lost Origin back-rower Matt Gillett to a fractured neck.

Brisbane's title hopes collapsed last season when McCullough snapped his ACL, and the club's hooking stocks are already thin with understudy Jake Turpin sidelined with a broken ankle.

To compound their plight, Brisbane could be without Matt Lodge next week after the prop was placed on report for a dangerous throw in the 75th minute.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett of his hooking options: "I really don't know what we do. We have to have a look around this week ... I don't think Sam Thaiday will be playing there again."

Joshua Addo-Carr scores a try.
Joshua Addo-Carr scores a try.

Don't be fooled by the scoreline. It was a fighting performance by the Broncos in a magnificent game of football, but Slater's class and the pace of wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr were decisive, continuing Melbourne's unbeaten run at Suncorp since 2009.

But the win was not without controversy, with Brisbane seemingly robbed after Slater was awarded his first try in the 10th minute after he drop kicked through the line.

Many believed Slater simply knocked on as he kicked. Even the fullback shook his head as he touched down, but the video referee inexplicably flashed the green light, triggering a torrent of boos.

The NRL claimed the decision was correct, saying a player didn't have to be attempting a field goal to score a try from a drop-kick.

But the assessment went down like a lead balloon with Bennett, who questioned whether Slater ever had control of the ball.

Ryan Hoffman is tackled by the Broncos defence.
Ryan Hoffman is tackled by the Broncos defence.

The incident sparked a three-try blitz in 12 minutes from the Storm, who charged to an 18-4 half-time lead and withstood a furious Broncos fightback after the break.

On a night of supreme football, Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford went from hero to villain. He kept Brisbane alive with a clever kick-and-regather in the 66th minute, only to allow Vunivalu to pounce on a Will Chambers grubber minutes later to bury the Broncos.

"We had some good moments," Bennett said. "The last 10 minutes we were right in it, but their last two tries were unacceptable."

MELBOURNE 34 (J Addo-Carr 2 B Slater 2 W Chambers S Vunivalu tries C Smith 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 20 (A Glenn J Isaako A Milford J Roberts tries J Isaako 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 32,709.



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