Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley Missing

Melbourne Storm crush spare parts Dogs
Melbourne Storm 38 def Bulldogs 14

The Storm pulled off a big win tonight in Melbourne in front of just under 15,000 locals – seemingly disposing of the Bulldogs and really only pulling 4th gear.

The Bulldogs were pretty much outgunned in the talent department, with Willie Mason, Mark O’Meley and Matt Utai all missing from last week – the usual solid forward foundation was no where to be seen. Young hopes Armit, Cleal, Hickey and raw Jon Green were no match for the hardened Storm pack.

After some early arm wrestling, the class of Cooper Cronk shone through – Cronk scoring a double in the first half and try assisting for another touchdown. He was silky smooth for the Storm and guided them around brilliantly. Things got ugly for the Dogs as time went by – the Doggies missing a total 41 tackles in all, almost double that of the Melbourne Storm.

Billy Slater was at his usual best for the Storm in a faultless display, Hoffman did enough to ensure he is selected for State of Origin 1 in a NSW jersey. The only concern was some illegal play by Storm lock Dallas Johnson. Johnson entered as the third man into a tackle on Reni Maitua and hit him in the head with an intentional shoulder. It didn’t look good on the footage and was pretty much uncalled for – he’ll be in hot water for this.

For the Dogs, Trent Cutler used his chance well to play himself back into form. The nervous winger gaining the spot through the missing Matt Utai – Cutler shut down some tough situations in defence and showed some nice offloading and positional play in attack. Hazem El Masri had a fair game and probably did enough to get the State of Origin Wing Spot for NSW – but it’s Sonny Bill Williams who is starting to be discussed in NRL circles regarding his form and impact for the Bulldogs.

Sonny Bill Williams has unquestionable talent; but the giant second rower hasn’t had the impact of previous years. Sonny Bill has been able to string several games together now and match fitness or injury really shouldn’t be a factor in the equation. Tonight Sonny Bill had some nice touches, offloads and the occasional big hit – but the boy needs to really take the next step and lead from the front. In the absence of Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley – Sonny Bill Williams really should have been the forward leader, mentoring Armit, Hickey and Co and really leading by example. His offloads are becoming almost predictable, as the big man tries to offload on every tackle – which can prove very risky in certain situations.

In summary, another win to the Melbourne Storm and while the Bulldogs were without their prime forwards – the Storm are still a cut above the rest of the NRL. While they misfired against the Tigers recently, this Storm side is no.1 and most certainly the team to beat in NRL 2007.

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