The Melbourne Storm have secured back-to-back grand final appearances after outclassing a trying Brisbane Broncos 30-0 at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Melbourne Are Still The Benchmark
Melbourne started the game slowly, as their first half was made up of missed opportunities, a poor kicking game and uncharacteristic errors. Whatever Craig Bellamy said to his boys at halftime must have struck a chord as they dominated the second half. Their ability to wear down the opposition and control the game is why they continue to be the benchmark of 2017.
Brisbane had their issues in attack during the finals. It was always going to be difficult to replicate the heroics of last week’s victory against Penrith, a performance which took a lot of energy and spark out of them. When fatigue made its way into the final quarter the Storm took complete control of the ruck and ended the Broncos’ 2017 season.
Brisbane Didn’t Capitalise
The Broncos applied plenty of pressure on the Melbourne defence during the first period but needed to capitalise on the opportunities given to them. On numerous occasions Melbourne kicked the ball dead in-goal and gave the Broncos multiple seven-tackle sets. With over 23 tackles in opposition territory during the first period, Brisbane had more chances to post points against Melbourne than any other team had all year.
Brisbane bombed two certain tries, the first being Corey Oates who lost possession of the football before he dived over in the corner and the second being Tautau Moga, who received a perfect outside pass from Anthony Milford; Oates was unmarked and if Moga saw what everyone else saw this game could have been different.
Melbourne had three close opportunities to break the deadlock, which included Suliasi Vunivalu, who would have scored untouched but failed to maintain possession just 30 metres out from the Brisbane tryline.
The Storm were eventually rewarded for their desperation and willingness to not give up in defence. Josh Addo-Carr showed off his blistering speed in front of a packed AAMI Park as he received an amazing offload from Curtis Scott. Cameron Smith slotted two goals and at halftime Melbourne somehow led 8-0.
Both teams were evenly poised as the game continued to be played at a frenetic pace. It proved too much for Darius Boyd whose night was brought to an early end with his hamstring injury. It was probably the wrong call for Brisbane to play Boyd, considering he wasn’t exactly 100% fit; on the other hand we can all understand why Brisbane played him as they needed their number one leader on the park. Boyd’s leadership is the key to Brisbane’s success but his injury prevented him from running the ball all night.
Melbourne take control
The Storm finally found their stride and took complete control of the last 20 minutes. Felise Kaufusi was simply outstanding as he assisted Billy Slater’s first try with a magical offload.
Cooper Cronk – who played his final game on home soil – played a pivotal role for Billy Slater’s second try after Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s barnstorming run to the tryline. Cameron Smith slotted four more goals and became the first ever player to kick 1000 goals in a year where he’s broken many individual records, including the most NRL games by an individual player.
Melbourne put the icing on the cake as Tohu Harris landed his first conversion of 2017 and Melbourne ran out victors 30-0. They’ll take on the winner of the Sydney Roosters vs North Queensland Cowboys in the grand final.
Brisbane should be given credit for another strong year and no doubt Wayne Bennett can get his team to go one better next year, but for now all the talk is around Melbourne and how great they are to watch.
Melbourne Storm: 30
Tries: Billy Slater 2, Josh Addo-Carr, Nelson Asofa-Solomona,
Goals: Cameron Smith 6, Tohu Harris 1
Brisbane Broncos: 0