The NRL’s most potent team didn’t get the wobbles against the Eels in Melbourne tonight, running out winners 26 to 10 in a hard fought home battle for the Storm. In front of an impressive 30,000+ crowd in Melbourne, NRL officials would be happy with the response from the Southern state as they continue to play a big part in Rugby League plans.
The Eels launched out of the blocks well and threw everything at the Storm, Parramatta getting first points and looking to have the foundation they needed to go all the way against Melbourne. Their try coming through a well worked hands play, Tim Smith cutting out two players to position Grothe in the corner.
Physical impact and lightning speed was the order of this game, most certainly the quickest and most intense of the whole NRL Finals series in 2007. As the Storm started to get some quality ball, the talent and precision of the Melbourne side came to the forefront. The 2007 minor premiers building pressure and gaining a repeat set that ultimately saw them pierce the Eels line.
The momentum flow for the Storm allowed them to jump up to out to a 4 point lead after their second try, a stylish Cooper cronk effort, stepping the tired Eels forwards centre field and skipping over. Fast running and direction from Cameron Smith and bench player Crocker saw the Storm come charging over the Eels in the final minutes of the first half.
After the early onslaught by the Eels forwards, injuries to Moi Moi and Cayless took the sting out of the Eels and the reserves for Melbourne were making their impact. Jeremy Smith, Jeff Lima and Michael Crocker playing big parts in the Storms late first half surge.
With half time fast approaching, the Storm were on a big roll – skittling the Eels all over the park. Parramatta like a prize boxer down for the count; fortunately for the Eels the half time siren rang – getting them safely over the line.
In the second half Parramatta again launched out of the blocks well. The Eels getting repeat sets, again showing physical intent and eventually getting over in the corner through Joel Reddy – the Eels successful again through a hands play, working the numbers and catching the Storm short on the edge.
In a critical period in the game with the scores locked up, a poor play by Timana Tahu gave the Storm a much needed penalty and repeat set which saw them score immediately after a kick off through a beautiful short ball from Greg Inglis to Ryan Hoffman, the rangy forward busting the tackle of Finch and Cayless to sprint away and setup Matt King for the try. In a tough, close fought battle the sudden 8 point lead was a big leg up for the Storm.
The quality of Melbourne continued to show through; they were winning the tough onslaught battle the Eels were giving them – but more importantly they were beating their own demons. They refused to get nervous or drop their bundle.
As Billy Slater limped from the field, there was a slight hope for the Eels. Parramatta mounted several waves of attack on the Melbourne line. Flanker Kris Inu getting over the line twice, but was denied by the video referee. The second time the Eels looked to be hard done by, video replays inconclusive and a benefit of the doubt call seemed certain – but the Storm weren’t to be denied and got the call they wanted.
Dallas Johnson, Ryan Hoffman and Michael Crocker were the stand outs for the Storm. In a tough close quarters battle, the glamour players took a backrow seat to the tough men and the Storm troops rolled up their sleeves and fought out the game in the middle.
A late try to Matt King on 80 minutes was a good confidence spring board for the Storm, who will have a big job ahead of them against Manly. Referee Tony Archer again having a good game and looks an even money favourite to adjudicate the NRL Grand Final.
The Grand Final will be the first time the Storm have played outside Melbourne in the finals series and Manly supporters will be out in full force. Some injury worries will have Craig Bellamy worried, but on todays performance the Storm have showed they can win gritty as well as flashy. The NRL McIntrye system has produced the ultimate result as Team 1 plays Team 2 in the Grand Final and the best two sides will fight out the big one.
Bring on Sunday evening, it should be a classic battle with both sides having the touches of brilliance and the hard men to tough it out in the middle. Injury worries look to be even across both sides; the Sydney support looks to be the main difference as we look to the big one.