Greg Inglis has hailed Cameron Smith as a benchmark for NRL excellence after the Melbourne captain calmly led his side to the top of the competition ladder.
Smith slotted a 39m post-siren penalty to put Saturday night’s round 22 clash with South Sydney into extra time, before cooly slotting a field goal four minutes into golden point to give the Storm a 15-14 win.
After Cronulla’s loss to Canberra earlier in the night, the AAMI Park win pushed the Storm to competition lead with four rounds to play.
Having played alongside Smith many times at club, state and international level, Souths skipper Inglis could only tip his hat to the Storm hooker’s match-winning qualities.
“He is just the ultimate player,” Inglis said.
“That’s the leader he is and the player he is.
“He takes his opportunities when he can and, unfortunately for us, he took it out in the golden-point.”
It was Smith’s second game-winning field goal for the season, his first giving the Storm victory against North Queensland in round 10.
“Cooper (Cronk) had a shot earlier and had a fair bit of heat on him,” Smith said.
“He mentioned to me when we got the ball back on those seven tackles that, if I saw the opportunity, to go out to the left side and have a crack.”
However Storm coach Craig Bellamy wouldn’t let the emotion surrounding the win hide the deficiencies of his side’s performance.
“I’m not quite sure why we were flat,” Bellamy said.
“We will have a chat to the players through their review and we might find a couple of things out.
“But we were pretty disappointed, especially in our execution and certainly in the way we defended tonight, to be quite honest.”
Melbourne’s next face in-form Canberra in the nation’s capital on Monday week.
“The Raiders are playing the house down at the moment,” Bellamy said.
“It’s going to be a real tough ask for us up there.
“We just need to get back to work this week, improve in a couple of areas and hopefully we can go up there and be competitive with them.