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Storm engulfs Parramatta - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Mon, 24 Sep 2007 10:29:00 GMT
For the second year running the Melbourne Storm will be heading to Sydney in the last weekend in September to contest the NRL Grand Final.

In front of 33,427 league fans, the Storm had the blowtorch applied to them by the eels and came out 26-10 victors.

It was classic finals football; an epic encounter with silky skills, hard hits and every other feature of a rugby league smorgasbord.

Coach Craig Bellamy was happy with the performance, but there is still room for improvement.

"We started off with plenty of effort and desire, but perhaps it wasn't as effective as it could have been. We probably got a little bit too pumped up," Bellamy said.

The opening exchanges were fierce and finals-worthy.

Both teams received penalties that provided opportunities in try-scoring territory.

To their credit, the Storm's desperate defence could not be broken until Tim Smith provided Eric Grothe with a great pass and a clear passage to the try-line.

Parramatta's physical approach rattled the favourites, but in pushing hard, penalties flowed for the Storm and the Eels were under pressure.

Cooper Cronk tried in vein to link his kicks with Israel Folau, but that usually fruitful attack plan was thwarted each time.

With the Storm's attacking kicks negated, the crowd erupted in the 28th minute when through Cam Smith to Cronk to Greg Inglis to Billy Slater and finally Steve Turner, the ball traversed from the extreme left of the field to the right wing.

Turner made no mistake in the grounding and Melbourne had locked up the scores.

But, more tellingly, had wrestled the momentum from Parramatta.

Another penalty after the restart produced further points for the Storm.

This time Cronk got the ball in the 10 metre zone, where he dummied, stepped and bounced, evading five Eels and giving the Storm the lead for the first time.

For the remaining ten minutes of the half, Melbourne focused its attack on the left-hand wing, Matt King and Anthony Quinn got perilously close to a third for the Storm, but were eventually bundled into touch.

The Storm were firing as the first half ended, but Parramatta began the second full of running.

On the restart they made their way down the field and regained possession through a goal-line dropout.

Joel Reddy found the right-hand corner open and it was suddenly two tries a piece.

It was a torrid opening ten minutes for the Storm, who were forced to defend their line again and again.

To add to its problems, Billy Slater left the field with a knee injury. Matt Geyer took the field on the wing, with Turner moving to fullback.
A Cam Smith penalty goal, following a Timana Tahu high shot on Folau, gave the Storm some respite and on the restart they made Parramatta pay.

Inglis set Ryan Hoffman down the left-hand side and with only the fullback Jarryn Hayne to beat, Hoffy offloaded to Matt King, who nabbed a four-pointer in his last game in Melbourne.

The eight-point lead was welcomed by the Storm with a lift in intensity.

The players tackling themselves to a standstill and hitting the ball up like rampant Godzillas.

Still, Parramatta would not yield and Melbourne were forced to fight tooth and nail until the end.

Another penalty to Smith with seven minutes to go gave Melbourne a ten-point buffer, but as the ball bobbled into touch on the restart - and Parramatta were gifted the ball ten metres out from the Storm's line - all 13 Storm players on the field might have rued the easy option.

In a nail-biting moment, Krisnan Inu came within millimetres of scoring.

But Matt Geyer somehow, incredibly, forced the young winger into touch to the collective sighs of relief of the majority at the Dome.

Storm Captain Cameron Smith played special tribute to the crowd - the biggest NRL crowd ever in Melbourne.

"Obviously it was the biggest crowd we have played in front of in our history.

It helped us get home in the end; they really rode us home and I just have to thank the public; 33,000 down in Victoria is a great complement to the game."

Matt King got a double in the dying seconds of the match, blowing the score out, in what was the perfect prelude to the biggest match of the year next week.

In an enticing match-up, the Storm will face the only team this year that they have not been able to defeat in the Manly Sea Eagles.

Tonight's brutal encounter, though, might have taken its toll, with injury clouds over Ben Cross, Folau, Hoffman and Clint Newton.

"We are a good chance of having a couple missing next week," said Bellamy.

"Some of our reserves haven't played for four or five weeks, to that's a concern. But we'll see what happens and hopefully the medical staff can do a good job over the week."

Storm 26 (Tries: King 2, Turner, Cronk; Goals: C. Smith 5) def. Eels 10 (Tries: Grothe, Reddy; Goals: Inu) - Read More, Here