Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Orford?s inspirational try ? his third for the night ? saved the Storm from going to extra time after scores were tied with just 17 seconds left in the match.
The dynamic No.7 set up the match-winner with a courageous bust up the middle of the field on the second last play of the night, before overpowering three Parramatta defenders to snap a two game losing streak for the Storm.
The try was not without controversy however, with Parramatta questioning whether Orford was held up in goal. Video referee Chris Ward didn?t believe so and awarded Orford the four-pointer on a night when the 26-year-old passed 700 first-grade points (from just 98 matches).
Storm coach Craig Bellamy was happy with his side?s performance despite the narrow margin at fulltime.
?It was a funny sort of game, I always sort of thought we had it under control, but we never got far enough in front to have in under control,? Bellamy said.
?I was quite happy with the way we played and I thought Parramatta played pretty good too, so I was happy to get a result.?
Captain Stephen Kearney paid tribute to Melbourne?s determination after the match swung in Parramatta?s favour with five minutes to play.
?I think it?s indicative of the team, we just never gave in and with 30 seconds to go we got an opportunity to get a try and we did,? Kearney offered.
Melbourne looked sluggish in the opening minutes of the match and its fortunes took a turn for the worse when winger Matt Geyer was sin-binned for impeding Matt Peterson off the ball in the 11th minute.
As a result Parramatta claimed first points of the night on the next set when the Storm was outnumbered down the left side as the Eels spun the ball wide with Luke Bert eventually scoring unattended next to the corner post.
Despite being a man down Melbourne showed grit to deny the Eels from scoring and squared the ledger as soon as Geyer returned to the field in the 21st minute.
A spiralling cut-out ball from Scott Hill was beautifully taken by Orford who managed to evade Eels halfback Chris Thorman before scampering off to score an opportunistic try out wide.
Five minutes later the brilliance of Orford saw the Storm hit the lead after he outpointed Eels fullback Wade McKinnon to successfully lunge at an in goal grubber for his second touchdown of the night.
After converting his own try from the sideline he went on to complete the Storm?s scoring for the half after guiding home a penalty just eight minutes from halftime.
The Eels? Nathan Hindmarsh was penalised for holding Billy Slater down in the tackle and following Orford?s conversion the Storm went into the break with 12-4 lead.
Melbourne was unlucky not to extend its lead six minutes after halftime when Ben MacDougall was denied a try following video referee Chris Ward?s ruling that the Storm centre had failed to remain in touch when diving for the tryline.
But the Eels hit back against the run of play in the 53rd minute when substitute Fiufui Moimoi gathered what looked to be a forward pass by Thorman. Moimoi strolled under the posts to score untouched and when Bert converted from directly in front, the Eels were back in the match.
A try to Storm three-quarter Matt King three minutes later ensured the Storm snatched a handy six-point buffer. King showed good skill to juggle a floating Hill pass before planting the ball over the tryline just moments before the Parramatta defence put him into touch.
The Eels refused to go away however and levelled the score in the 78th minute when lock Lee Hopkins dived through two Storm defender to place the ball on the tryline.
The match looked destined for extra time before Orford completed his treble in spectacular fashion.
The Storm will have an anxious wait this week after prop Alex Chan was placed on report in the 51st minute for a high tackle on Eels back-rower Nathan Hindmarsh.
DETAILS STORM 22 Tries: Orford 3, King 1 Goals: Orford 3/5 (1 pen. gl.)
EELS 16 Tries: Bert 1, Moimoi 1, Hopkins 1 Goals: Bert 2/3