The Melbourne v Parramatta Qualifying Final brought together the two in-form sides of the competition and they didn’t disappoint; in one of the best games of the season they traded blows throughout, with Melbourne’s finals experience seeing them home by two points.
Parramatta weathered the early Storm
Parramatta knew Melbourne was going to come out hard and fast – as they have done in finals matches so many times before – and the Eels had to survive the early onslaught otherwise the game might have been over by halftime.
As expected the Storm set the early pace and looked to go wide early which led to their first try, a controversial one to winger Josh Addo-Carr. At this point it looked like Melbourne could have crossed for a couple more tries with Cameron Munster going very close to scoring before the Bunker ruled he had put the ball down short of the tryline.
Parramatta repelled the Storm’s raids on their tryline and found themselves just behind by the early try (4-0) after the opening 20 minutes, a good effort by the Eels.
Munster Sin Bin Fuels Eels Fightback
After surviving the Storm’s fast start the Eels worked their way into the contest as the possession stats started to even out. At the 23-minute mark Parramatta received a penalty 15 metres out from the Storm’s tryline, a quick thinking Kenny Edwards took a quick tap and caught Cameron Munster offside.
After some deliberation the refs came up with the correct decision and sent Munster to the sin bin for committing the professional foul. Parramatta wasted no time and took advantage of the extra man as Kirisome Auva’a finished off a nice play down their right hand side to level the game up, before Mitchell Moses and Will Smith combined for a very slick set play, seeing Smith cross the line after a no-look pass from Moses.
Parramatta had taken full advantage of the Munster sin bin with both of their first half tries coming down the Storm’s left side where Munster defends, and after being under the pump early coach Brad Arthur was thrilled as his side took a handy 10-4 lead at halftime.
Storm Strike Back
Melbourne seemed rattled at halftime – after dominating early – to find themselves behind at the break; the Storm were in unfamiliar territory and errors began to sneak into their game.
But Craig Bellamy produced just the right halftime talk as Melbourne regrouped, started the second half more composed and started to regain control of the match. The Eels’ defence stood firm but the Storm decided to run the ball on the last and produced a try which would go through 11 sets of hands (and lay claim to the try of the season award) and level up the game 10-10.
Melbourne then produced another special try; with the ball going through a number of hands, Josh Addo-Carr grubber kicked inside for Billy Slater to score and give the Storm the lead. A controversial penalty to Slater not long after allowed Cameron Smith to extend the Storm’s lead to 18-10.
The Eels produced their own miracle try in the 66th minute through Semi Radradra to bring the deficit back to two points. But Melbourne hung on for a gutsy win and will enjoy the week off to rest; whilst Parramatta will be proud of their efforts, they will have to regroup for their elimination match next week in Sydney.
Cameron Smith Makes History
With all the hype and build-up to this game you could be forgiven for not knowing that Cameron Smith was going to break the all-time matches record in this game, especially since Smith himself tried to keep things “as normal as possible”, but said he was “extremely proud” of the record.
Smith passed Darren Lockyer’s record of 355 matches (another great Queenslander) and Smith’s good mate ‘Locky’ was there to congratulate him and present a medal from the NRL to Smith.
Coach Bellamy also made point of saying in his post match press conference that it was “Important for Cameron to get the win.”
Melbourne Storm 18 (Josh Addo-Carr, Kenny Bromwich, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals)
Parramatta Eels 16 (Kirisome Auva’a, Will Smith, Semi Radradra tries; Mitchell Moses 2 goals)