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Ezra Mam's luck bounces away from Broncos in Storm's comeback win

Andrew Mathieson -

They say that rugby league games, in a competition as tough and as even like the NRL is, often comes down to the bounce of the ball.

The flip side to that kind of thinking is great players make their own luck.

Ezra Mam proved both philosophies correct, courtesy of the Kuku Yalanji and Torres Strait Islands man's two remarkable tries in a masterful display on Thursday night.

But less important for the pragmatic five-eighth that like last season's heartbreaking grand final defeat at the death where he scored a treble, the literal bounce in his favour that gave Mam's Brisbane Broncos a buffer throughout most of the close battle with Melbourne Storm did not result in the next crucial win since that chance against premiers Penrith.

In Melbourne's backyard, the Storm mounted a late-match comeback similar to the Panthers to hang on for a 34-32 triumph that came right down to the final minute when the Broncos were hoping for some luck to bounce their way the most.

It was left to Brisbane coach Kevin Walters to frustratingly sum up the mantra that caused the loss as entertaining his side's tries were in one of the games of the early part of the season so far.

"Some of the tries that we scored were absolutely amazing, no doubt," Walters remarked in the brief post-match press conference.

"That's all great for the crowd, and I am glad they're all enjoying it, but we have to be better defensively."

The breakdown of the six tries to five had Melbourne cross for tries in more conventional ways, but three of Brisbane's consecutive crosses were worth noting for their need to kick just to get around the Storm's watertight line defence.

But early on Melbourne looked more likely to score after Reimis Smith, the Bundjalung and Wiradjuri nephew of Anthony Mundine, bungled a tricky bounce off the first of the opportunistic kicks after struggling to bend his knees to pick the ball up cleanly, fumbling possession forward just metres from the line.

The home side scored twice inside four minutes to grab a 10-6 advantage after Papua New Guinean international Xavier Coates in the 23rd minute flew the back of Deine Mariner – the first scorer of the evening – and over the top to catch a high ball over the line.

Tristian Sailor set up the Broncos' second try after Reece Walsh's replacement for the injured fullback delivered a defining midfield cut-out pass that found winger Jesse Arthars whose in-field kick seconds later reached a flying Ezra Mam inside closing on the posts for a 27th minute put down.

Mam returned the favour less than four minutes later when the rushed kick wobbled towards the tryline but was picked up Arthars, the Maori and Samoan man latching onto the ball fleetingly prior to being tackled.

After Tongan-born, New Zealand-educated Eli Katoa scored two first-half tries for the Storm, the Broncos continued to ride their luck in the second half with the luckiest bounce of the ball.

From a 40-metre kick, Mam first jogged before accelerating onto the ball that sprung on its end backwards 10 metres perfectly into his arms to sprint the final 30 metres away from closing defenders to under the posts.

Despite trailing 24-16 after 52 minutes, the Storm crossed for three converted tries – including two in five minutes inside the last eight minutes of the contest – to pull out to an eight-point lead heading into the final moments.


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