It was set up as potentially one of the most brutal and robust games of the season.
Two teams were prepared to grind through the middle and niggle and grapple their way to an ascendancy in the ruck. Both would then look to parlay that dominance into attacking explosions out wide on the back of their ‘go to’ men.
The home side would call on an excellent record at AAMI Park, channel the grand final victory of 2017 and aim to set up a fitting farewell for club legend Billy Slater.
The visitors from Sydney’s shire would only have to cast their minds back five weeks for belief. On that day they out-stormed the Storm in Melbourne and it went a long way towards guaranteeing a top four finish.
Thus, the Cronulla Sharks travelled to Melbourne to face the best team of the modern era, in a match to determine the first of two grand finalists.
If season 2018 has taught us anything, it is that predictability doesn’t exist in the NRL.
Strangely, the Storm defied that logic and did what many thought they would against the Sharks at AAMI Park.
In the end, it was a comfortable harpooning for the Storm, as they speared the Sharks to the tune of 20 to zip in the first half and continued the cull in the second.
Cameron Munster of the Storm (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Cronulla had a moment or two in the first forty, yet it was a controlled and disciplined first half from the Storm that set up an unassailable lead.
A double to Billy Slater and a brilliant try to Brodie Croft established a comfortable margin at the break and Scott Morrison was reportedly spitting chips in Kirribilli. His boys from the insular peninsular had their pants well and truly pulled down by the southerners.
The best front runners in the game were never going to let such a lead slip and set about grinding the visitors into the dirt in front of their home fans. It made a considerable statement to both the Roosters and Rabbitohs, who will belt the living heck out of each other later on tonight.
Whichever Sydney team manages to scrape over the line and earn the right to face Craig Bellamy’s men had better recover well and strategically plot a course of action far more effective than the one that the Sharks took into the Preliminary Final.
An early disallowed second-half try teased the Sharks but it took them the best part of 70 minutes to eventually cross the line. They did so with 11 minutes remaining when Luke Lewis scored a fitting try to round off a superb career with the Sharks, Panthers, New South Wales and Australia.
It reduced the lead to 22-6 in favour of the Storm after Cameron Smith had added a penalty goal early in the half.
From then on, the Storm did what they do so well and Bellamy will be proud of his teams’ execution of the game plan.
It was a plan that the Sharks and many others before them, were far from matching let alone combating, and it sends the Storm into yet another grand final.
If you find the Storm’s consistency a little boring and can’t quite work out how one little club in an AFL stronghold continues to appear at the pointy end of the NRL season, look no further than Craig Bellamy, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
They have been doing it for quite some time and despite the best efforts of the perennial challengers, the antidote to their dominance is yet to be found.
Good luck to the Roosters and the Rabbitohs. It will be an epic clash in Sydney tonight. The winner will have high hopes but I’m not quite sure either will have the tools to combat the clinical precision of the Melbourne Storm.
FREE Printable 2019 Monthly Calendar and Planner in Florals!
Wednesday October 10, 2018
Our free printable 2019 monthly calendar and planner is here! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to release this new planner. It includes over 30 pages of 2019 planner printables in the most gorgeous floral theme! Let me set this straight – if you’re looking for a planner that’s delicately feminine […]