A dominant first half by the minor premiers was too much for the Eels to come back from.
Coming off a loss to Canberra last week, we knew Melbourne would be up for this one. They were playing an Eels side who were flying high after smashing the Broncos 58-0. The Eels clearly had a plan to dominate early through their forwards, but it seemed as though the minor premiers were expecting it. The Eels may have gone a bit too hard too early with a few penalties to go along with a lot of errors and lopsided possession. Melbourne were on top for the first thirty minutes with five quick tries before Cameron Smith was sin binned in the 29th minute for striking Reed Mahoney in the head. Parramatta were unable to take advantage of the extra man, with the Storm seeming to have a counter to everything thrown at them.
The half time stats were telling, with 66 per cent possession to the Storm – who completed at 95 per cent. The Eels completed just three of their nine sets. Melbourne also had the better of run metres (841-394), line breaks (3-0), tackles busts (22-5), forced dropouts (4-0) and also only had 5 missed tackles compared to the Eels’ 22.
It didn’t take long for the magic to start for the Storm with Josh Addo-Carr racing 65 metres and beating 5 defenders to score a try that not many people could. From there is was back-to-back shoulder charge penalties, gifting the Storm field position the build pressure and a try to Suliasi Vunivalu. The Eels just couldn’t get anything to work, with penalties and errors the last thing you want to give to a hungry Storm side.
To put it nicely, the second half was scrappy. The Storm didn’t cross again until Papenhuyzen went over in the 58th minute and that was the only points until big Nelson Asofa-Solomona barged over at the end to rub it into a rowdy group of Eels supporters. There was some problems for Parramatta with Clint Gutherson, Tepai Moeroa and Marata Niukore all getting head knocks within two minutes. Moeroa and Niukore returned to finish the game but Gutherson failed his HIA and Blake Ferguson finished the game at fullback. There will also be questions marks over Maika Sivo and Kane Evans being placed on report for shoulder charges, as well as a very nervous wait to see if Cam Smith gets a fine or a charge for striking Mahoney.
Late Selection Surprise
We had a surprise change to the Storm team with Curtis Scott back to play his eighth game of the season. He was thrust back into the starting centre role which interestingly pushed Will Chambers to the bench. Craig Bellamy has made some big selection calls this season and it looks like he’s still trying to decide on the correct make-up of the team. Chambers hasn’t been in the best of form for a while now, and didn’t do too much right when he came onto the field late in the match to give Vunivalu a rest. It will be interesting to see the 17 for the game against the Roosters next week, as it doesn’t make a lot of sense having a centre on the bench.
It was always going to be tough to play Melbourne at home in an elimination final after a tough loss. The Eels clearly had a game plan to be aggressive out of the gate, but it didn’t work out so well. Kane Evans and Maika Sivo gave away early back-to-back penalties for shoulder charges which gave Melbourne great field position that they took advantage of. The Storm scored three early tries, although Smith was unable to convert to his usual standard. Parramatta got their first attacking chance 19 minutes in after a Gutherson kick off found touch, but then Clint put a horrible attacking kick in that hit the corner post on the full and gave Melbourne another chance to head upfield, which they capitalised on again. Parramatta had one completed set in the first 20 minutes.
He’s had such an incredible rookie year, but there was just error after error in the first half. He gave away a penalty early on for a bad shoulder charge on Ryan Papenhuyzen, conceded a goal line dropout on a kick that was going to go dead and was caught out of position on more than one occasion. Most baffling, however, was when the Eels finally got an attacking chance in the first half and Mitch Moses put a bomb up for him, yet he had no eyes for the ball and made no attempt to catch it; he simply waited for Vunivalu to jump for it, tackled him in the air and looked confused when he was penalised.
Cam Smith Goes to the Bin Again!
Maybe he was frustrated after missing four of his first five attempts at conversion, but Reed Mahoney tackled Smith after a kick and made a bit of a second effort. Nothing really in it, but Smith reacted by getting up and slapping Mahoney over the forehead and the ref had no choice but to send him to the sheds. There wasn’t much in the slap, but consistency is key so no one can really argue the point.
Melbourne Storm 32
Tries: Addo-Carr (2), Vunivalu, Munster, Hughes, Papenhuyzen, Asofa-Solomona
Goals: Smith 1/6, Munster 0/1, Papenhuyzen 1/1
Parramatta Eels 0
Melbourne Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 18. Curtis Scott 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 3. Will Chambers 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Max King.
Parramatta Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson (c) 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitch Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Brad Takairangi 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Tepai Moeroa 17. Marata Niukore.