In a great game of football the Melbourne Storm cemented their place as one of the most dominant teams of the modern era by beating the Parramatta Eels 23-16.
The sellout crowd of 82,538 saw a classic Grand Final with momentum changes, precision play, rampaging runs, a great comeback and a cool as you like finish from the champions.
Melbourne got off to a good start early and while Parramatta played good hard football, the Storm looked to be in control of the match.
The Storm were clinical in the way they isolated spot defenders with Ryan Hoffman, Adam Blair and Cooper Cronk all breaking the Parramatta line in the first half.
It was a good ball by Brett Finch that put Hoffman in for an early try that was the perfect start ffor the Storm.
Blair set the tone early in the match by completely monstering anyone in the left hand side attack of the Eels that received the ball. Krisnan Inu in particular was rattled a few times by Blair and so it was a good reward for the big Kiwi when we went over for the second try of the game.
Late in the first half Joel Reddy found himself a bit dusty after attempting a tackle and with the backline reshuffle I expected the Storm to send all of its attack down that side of the field, but it never came about.
The Eels started the second half very well, led by Fui Fui Moi Moi, who’s go forward was the best attacking weapon Parramatta had all night.They hit back early through a try to Eric Grothe Jr, who had the best attacking game of his career. I expected him to be targeted by the Storm much more in this game, but the flow of the game never really saw him tested all that much in defense.
In typical Storm style though they countered very quickly.
A bomb that none of the Parramatta side decided to claim was quickly swooped on by a flying Greg Inglis who went in under the sticks. That was then back up with a beautiful ball by Cooper Cronk, who sent Adam Blair through the line, who then put a ball on for the eventual try scorer Billy Slater.
The Storm looked like they were about to go on with the game, but led by Moi Moi the Eels had other ideas.
Joel Reddy claimed a high ball on the Storm try line to give the Eels hope as coach Daniel Anderson took Moi Moi from the field.
He was off for just 6 minutes before being sent back out, and boy, the big man delivered, with a rampaging try in the corner to bring the Eels back into the contest.
Down by just 6 points with less then ten minutes to go, the Storm were back in a street fight with an opponent that had their tails up. Then, the Penalty.
A great round the ankles tackle by Moi Moi on Billy Slater was text book stuff, but he was penalized when we didn’t let go immediately. It was a terrible penalty, it gave the Storm a fresh set of six deep in Parramatta territory and they took full advantage.
Three tackles into their set, Greg Inglis slotted a field goal and it was enough to give the Storm a great win.
There were so many great performers in the game. Cooper Cronk was outstanding, and my man of the match easily. Nathan Hindmarsh made an incredible 62 tackles. Adam Blair was at his very best, Eric Grothe had a career game, Ryan Hoffman was terrible, Moi Moi was devastating…..but the Clive Churchill Medal went to Billy Slater.
He played well, but I got the feeling it was another of those those “Whos name will look good in the record books” decisions similar to Kimmorley being picked over Tawera Nikau in the Storm 1999 Grand Final victory.
The Storm have shown this season they are the best in the NRL. Forget Phil Goulds suggestions that they have not been the best all season, the Storm always looked like a team building towards something and just being where they needed to be before stepping it up when the important games started.
In 2007 the Storm dominated the entire regular season. Come playoff time, they looked like they were running on tired legs. Heart got them through, but when they came up against Manly in the Grand Final, they had nothing more left to give.
This season the Storm times their run perfectly. They executed with precision, they broke games open with power and brilliance, and they showed why they are the best the game has to offer.
In a salary cap era, to make four straight Grand Final is incredible in any sport. Two win two of them is a fantastic achievement, especially when you consider that in 2006 they were a very young side not expected to even make the Grand Final.
Now, we are looking at a team that should start to be ranked among the greats of the modern era. The likes of Smith, Slater, Hoffman, Inglis, Johnston and co are all still relatively young, their best football is still ahead of them.
Where this team ends up on the list of all time greats, only time itself will tell us. For now the Storm are the 2009 NRL Champions, and no one deserves that titles more that the best clubs in the game.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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