Manly MIA

Grand Final 2007

Storm win GF, Manly dazed and confused

Storm 34 d Manly 8

It was a Melbourne Storm that just kept coming and coming. The 2007 Grand Final starting with a huge impact, big hits and ferocious mistake free football in the early passages. Regardless of the injury clouds, a huge Sydney crowd and a nervous twitch – the Storm were clinical in their efforts, dispatching the stumbling Eagles with ease in the end. Fortunately for Manly, Cameron Smith missed 5 conversions – keeping a little more respect in the score.

After getting themselves into the game nicely, Manly looked up to the task early on. The Eagles getting through their sets and kicking deftly to get their game underway. The Storm on the other hand looked a little more nervous initially, but once they got a repeat set they didn’t let Manly breathe until half time. The early momentum roll was so strong to the Storm, the Eagles simply did well to hang on. Wave after wave of Melbourne Storm attack came at Manly. Sweeping second man plays, spiral cut out balls and towering Greg Inglis bombs peppered Manly.

The kicking game from Melbourne was unlike their previous tactics. The Storm used Inglis on final tackle options when they weren’t entrenched in the Manly red zone. A deep standing Greg Inglis would receive the ball from a dummy half pass, then send a towering spiral bomb the way of Brett Stewart. The height and precision of the Inglis kicks were superb, giving his runners plenty of time to get underneath the attacking balls. The weight of the possession finally told on Manly, Anthony Quinn receiving the final pass of a Storm backline move and sprinting through to score; improving the position of the touchdown directly underneath the posts.

Melbourne’s dominance continued; this time they were successful on the Manly left edge. A run around play to an angle running Greg Inglis saw him dispatch a bad tackle from Anthony Watmough and use his sheer size and drive to score the second Storm try.

Manly started to get the shakes under the weight of the Storm pressure. Even the experienced Steve Menzies was making uncharacteristic mistakes; the Beaver not once but twice fumbling an attempted play the ball – the first time trying to milk a penalty and the second time he simply tried to do things too quick. As Menzies faltered, so too was the usually rock solid Anthony Watmough. Choc was dropping off tackles left right and centre, his confidence taking huge damage and it was affecting his ability in attack. At dummy half Michael Monaghan continued to run into his own players and spent too much time chasing lagging markers and forgot to pinch metres.

Even though they were hanging on by a thread, Manly manged to grab a penalty late in the half and sneak over the Storm line with seconds remaining in the first half. Michael Monaghan finally turned up and with a nice cut out ball he gave Steve Matai a chance to challenge the Melbourne right hand defence; the strong Matai beating Israel Folau and touching down impressively to get Manly within 6 points.

The late score by Manly gave them some hope; the Storm had thrown everything at them and somehow the Eagles were only 6 astray. Manly only had 2-3 attacking sets in the first period, but had converted one raid – they simply needed more ball in the second period. The injury concerns for the Storm weren’t worrying them at all, Ben Cross had some attention at various stages of the first half – but his minutes on the field were very strong. Cross was running for big metres and proving a handful on most touches of the ball. Billy Slater too was dynamic and not showing affects of his damaged knee; the pre-game injections working a treat.

When play got underway in the second half, Manly were rocked hard when their custodian Brett Stewart was on the end of a Michael Crocker scud missile hit only 2 minutes in. Stewart standing his ground to take a towering bomb, as a chasing Michael Crocker launched at him with a low shoulder charge. The hit instantly knocked Stewart out and the Manly speedster was helped from the field soon after.

You could see the concern in the Manly players faces as their gun player was removed from the field. Rather than react with venom, Manly retracted into their shells and let Melbourne call the shots. Melbourne’s bench forwards were supremely dominant. Michael Crocker, Jeff Lima and Jeremy Smith were brutal and bullying – thumping Manlys big men and thwating any momentum shift the Eagles way.

When Michael Crocker strolled over the Eagles try line in the early minutes of the second half, the scene was set. A soft 5m try right through the heart of the Manly defence sent shockwaves through the Eagles and you could see Melbournes confidence growing and growing. Their nerves were all gone and they started to play more of their natural game.

The Melbourne forwards had won the early slug fest and bashed the life out of Manly, now their multi-million dollar backline did their bit. Greg Inglis was floating on both sides of the field and had his best game in weeks, the tall rangy pivot was everywhere in attack – scoring a beautiful solo try and sparking several other raids. Matt King and Anthony Quinn were also standouts in the Storm backline, both damaging in attack and faultless in defence.

When Manly got a sniff of possession in the second half, they either fumbled the ball or were driven backwards regularly. Everytime the Eagles tried to get out of trouble with an early kick, Storm chasers pressured Orford and Mongahan. This year the Storm weren’t leaving anything to chance.

As things wore on it became a nightmare for Manly. Jamie Lyon joining Anthony Watmough in the missed tackles department and costing his team on several occasions. Only Cameron Smiths missed conversions were giving the Eagles any hope.

The Storm were oozing passion, every hit by their forwards was bone rattling. When they copped one from Manly, they simply bounced back up. Even Manly’s attempts to rattle Billy Slater and Ben Cross failed badly – nothing was going to stop Bellamy’s men tonight. The quick recovery by the Storm after their torried encounter against the Eels makes the win even more impressive – they turned things around quickly and pulled out a top draw performance with wounded warriors.

The monkey is finally off their back and the Storm may simply grow more powerful next year. The whole system in place at Melbourne is impressive. Not only are they turning no-name players into superstars their marketing machine is impressive also. Their dressing room on Grand Final day was plastered with sponsors signage and logos, each players locker bore their full name. Knowing full well that Channel 9 cameras regularly grabbed footage from the rooms, the Storm didn’t miss the opportunity to add value for their sponsors. The whole setup oozed professionalism; from the coach to the PR team right down to the players – they are an impressive machine.

The problem for every other NRL team is; the gap between them and the Storm is simply getting wider.

Well done Melbourne Storm – 2007 NRL Premiers.

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