Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Balmain won a narrow victory at Leichhardt oval today beating North Sydney by 20 points to 18 in a mistake ridden match where both teams struggled to complete sets.
Balmain took an early lead when Shannon McDonnell slipped past the Norths defence to score and Ben Jeffery converted from in front of the posts. However it was not long before Norths hit and five minutes later Captain Daniel Russell dragged two defenders over the line and went on to convert his own try leveling the scores.
Russell scored again in the 26th minute after his expertly aimed kick rebounded off the upright and he regathered to score, he once again converted his own try and Norths gained a 12-6 lead.
Shortly afterwards Norths scored a controversial try when Johno Rolfe was penalised for what appeared to be a one on one strip 20m out from his own line and then Norths hooker Ben Ellis ran behind his own teammates to score untouched. Russell once again added the extras and Norths went into the sheds at half-time leading by eighteen points to six.
It was a rejuvenated Balmain team that ran out for the second half and two quick trys saw them well and truly back in the game. In the 50th minute winger Ben Jeffery capitalised on a Norths mistake, picking up a spilled ball and racing past the norths defence to score out wide. Jeffrey was unable to convert his own try but just two minutes later teammate Frank Samia scored in the opposite corner after diving on a kick by Johno Rolfe. Jeffery was again unable to convert leaving Balmain trailing by four points with just under half an hour left to play.
The next twenty minutes saw some very scrappy play from both teams as they struggled to get on top of one another but despite Balmain spending much of their time camped in Norths half it wasn?t until the 75th minute that they were able to take the lead when Corey Niwa scored the match winning try off a Sam Harris run and Rolfe converted.
The best for Balmain were 5/8th Rolfe, fullback McDonnell and back rower Tevita Metuisela while 5/8th Daniel Russell and hooker Ben Ellis shined for Norths.