Melbourne Storm comeback at the death to win a thrilling finals contest beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 29-28 at AAMI Park
This qualifying final had a frantic beginning which played out for the majority of the match with many tries following. South Sydney opened the scoring with a try to Dane Gagai in the corner within 10 minutes to lead 4-0. Rabbitohs were showing no hints at faulting with strong goal-line defence, marching to the other end and receiving a penalty conversion Souths pushed to 6-0. A penalty to Melbourne in the 24th minute allowed Curtis Scott to answer back with a try to have scores move to 6 all. The defence of both outfits started to press in the middle allowing another try to each side on the edges, seconds from the halftime hooter going it was a break from halfback Brodie Croft that set up winger Suliasi Vunivalu to score and lead 16-12 at the half.
In the second stanza, the aggression from the forward packs went up with intensity having huge shots forcing errors. Applied pressure from Rabbitohs in the Storms red-zone with kicks, Adam Reynolds found a pin-point bomb to Greg Inglis flying high to score in the 54th minute to equal Melbourne 18 all. Building more confidence the South Sydney attack put on their signature shift to the left edge through hands to score another four-pointer to Robert Jennings leading 22-16, in typical Storm fashion they replied off a penalty given to them to have scores level once again. The ending was chaotic with the ball going up and down the field until a final breakthrough from Souths had Cameron Murray 1 on 1 with a Storm defender to edge the win ever so closer. Down a converted try and their preliminary final hopes in the balance, the home side conjured up a try on their left to have Cheyse Blair score his second try with Cameron Smith converting to 28 all with 4 minutes left. A minute later with impressive metres through the middle Cameron Munster snapped a 35-metre field goal which soared over for Melbourne to win 29-28 and have them one game away from their third straight grand final.
MUNSTER BURIES BUNNIES
In an epic clash of two heavyweight sides of the 2018 season, it was a tossing and throwing affair that finished as an absolute thriller. The scores throughout the match had each side switch into the lead at multiple stages and have the same amount of tries. Surprisingly the scores levelled 4 times throughout the game but it was a clutch Cameron Munster field goal in the 77th minute, which had his Storm side move into another preliminary final down in Melbourne with the reigning premiers now closer to back-to-back titles.
PENALTIES DROP SIGNIFICANTLY
This season has been the most adjudicated year on record with an emphasis on fair play around goal lines and plays the balls while having blown out penalty counts and being punished. In this fixture, the rules flipped from the regular season as does every finals series with the penalty count significantly dropping. There were 11 penalties blown in this match which made it such a close and enthralling rugby league game, the interesting take will be if this officiating continues throughout the series or only with certain referees handling the intense battles.
South Sydney Captain Greg Inglis was outstanding against his former side, winding back the clock to when he was playing for Melbourne being nearly impossible to overcome. A slight injury concern early in the game had many worried but that only poked the bear that is Inglis, who then went to another level with the centre finding the try line twice at crucial moments. The Rabbitohs centre with his two four-pointers, in which one he leapt high into the air to come down in his favour to be 1 on 1 with Billy Slater to score his second however it was his damaging runs and quick play the balls which caused the most havoc. Inglis finished with 134 run metres with a try and linebreak assist along with 4 tackle busts.
The 2018 finals series only just beginning to take shape has the next opposition for each side slightly in view. South Sydney are now on the way back home to hold a Semifinal at ANZ against the winner of Broncos vs Dragons. Melbournes miraculous win now has them one game away from the big dance once again with the winner of Panthers vs Warriors and loser of Roosters vs Sharks to play off to meet them in week 3.
Tries: Scott, Vunivalu (2), Blair (2)
Goals: Smith 4/6
Drop Goals: Munster 1/1
Tries: Gagai, Inglis (2), Jennings, Murray
Goals: Reynolds 4/7
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Cheyse Blair, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 19. Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 17 Kenny Bromwich 20. Sam Kasiano
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14 Hymel Hunt, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Dean Britt