Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
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16 hours ago
Finals 2006 Week 1
Melbourne Storm 12 v Parramatta Eels 6
at Olympic Park Melbourne
Referee: Steve Clark
Melbourne has joined the Bulldogs in week three of the 2006 NRL finals series with a hard-fought 12-6 victory over the Parramatta Eels at Olympic Park today.
In somewhat of an anti-climax, the Eels managed to keep themselves in the match for the full 80 minutes and the Eels very nearly took the match into golden point extra- time through a dangerous Brett Delaney dash with just three minutes remaining.
But after a John Morris pass from the subsequent scrum win, the Eels turned possession over to the Storm and the win was confirmed.
This match has been soured by a controversial decision from video referee Chris Ward. The replay appeared to be inconclusive as to whether the ball was grounded in the in-goal or not. This should usually result in a benefit of the doubt ruling as a number of replays were looked at. But strangely, it wasn?t to be.
Earlier, Melbourne?s Steve Turner crossed for a try after five minutes of play and at that stage, a massive score-line looked possible.
But the Eels grinded their way back into the match and it wasn?t until a 38th minute barge-over from Storm prop Antonio Kaufusi that more points were added. Melbourne took their 12 point advantage into half-time.
The Storm was unsuccessful in striking the final nails into the Eels? coffin in the second half. And midway through the second period Daniel Wagon scored under the posts to send a nervous shimmer over the Olympic Park crowd.
But the Storm were lucky to hang on and will find life difficult in week three when they come to Sydney to meet either the Manly Sea Eagles or the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Melbourne has slight injury concerns with David Kidwell coming off second best in a head-clash, and Jake Webster feeling the effects of an Eric Grothe elbow, of which Grothe was placed on report for.
The men south of the Murray will now cool their heels over the next fortnight but Craig Bellamy has some issues to address on today?s performance. They?ll need to do their homework as the winner of Friday night?s match between Manly and St George Illawarra will be running into form.
The mad Monday drinks will taste that little bit sweeter for the Eels after a spirited performance. If it weren?t for some debatable decisions from today?s officials, we may have witnessed history today with the eighth side beating the first side for the first time ever.
Melbourne Storm: 12
Tries: Antonio Kaufusi, Steve Turner
Goals: Cameron Smith 2/2
Parramatta Eels: 6
Tries: Daniel Wagon
Goals: Luke Burt 1/1
By the Clock:
The fourth qualifying takes place today between Minor Premiers the Melbourne Storm and the eighth-placed Parramatta Eels. The weather is clear in Melbourne today with slight winds. The Storm have to be favoured here but stranger things have happened.
Changes: A big loss for the Storm with Greg Inglis ruled out injured, Jake Webster comes in for him.
Also, Brett White will be missing through injury. Garret Crossman comes into the starting side with Adam Blair coming onto the bench.
The Eels are as-per-program.
KICKOFF! Finals footy underway at Olympic Park!
5 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Melbourne have struck at the first opportunity - moving the ball quickly through the hands close to the Eels' line, culminating with a try in the corner to winger Steve Turner. Cameron Smith converts.
10 min: NEWS Parramatta managed to hold Melbourne on that occasion but it's all the Storm at the moment. The Eels have had no possession or field position in the opening 10 minutes.
16 min: NEWS NO TRY: Luke Burt was unable to ground the ball off a Tim Smith grubber kick as ruled by the video referee. Cameron Smith knocked the ball dead and a Storm line drop-out is the result. Eels with a chance here.
19 min: NEWS Parramatta bomb the chance as Tim Smith's kick goes too deep and over the touch in-goal line. Opportunity wasted by the Eels who simply cannot afford to make a habit of this.
26 min: NEWS Parramatta are holding down far too long in tackles and Nathan Hindmarsh has been spoken to by Steven Clarke as a result. The Eels must improve their discipline. 5-1 is the penalty count now in favour of the Storm.
33 min: NEWS Melbourne are looking clinical and dangerous in attack but they still only hold a 6-0 lead on the scoreboard. A great effort by the Eels to be this close to the Storm at this stage.
38 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Antonio Kaufusi has barged over the line from close range, sending fear into the Parramatta defensive line in the process. A heartbreaking try for the Eels right on halftime after their spirited defensive efforts of the first half. Smith successful with the conversion.
HALF TIME min: NEWS While it's not out of the realms of possibility that the Eels come back from here, their chances of doing so look highly unlikely. Melbourne are in control with a 12-0 lead and a very tight defensive structure at the moment. Anything other than a Melbourne victory would almost be a miracle. A long way back for the Eels.
Second half underway at Olympic Park
48 min: NEWS Parramatta have lifted their intensity but Melbourne have held sway again in defence. Still 12-0 the locals lead.
50 min: NEWS NO TRY: We can now establish that the benefit of the doubt rule is irrelevant in our game. A number of replays were looked at by the video referee who came to the conclusion that Glenn Morrison failed to ground the ball. Poor decision. Storm leading 12-0 with 30 minutes remaining.
59 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
Daniel Wagon has completed an exciting passage of play for the Eels with a try under the sticks. They've done a tremendous job to remain in this game for as long as they have. Luke Burt converts and the Eels are within six points now.
67 min: NEWS In the blinking of an eye this match is there for the Eels' taking but Melbourne's defence is still proving difficult to crack. An exciting finish nonetheless.
72 min: NEWS Melbourne off the hook as Parramatta bomb another opportunity with a kick that goes dead. The Storm have taken their foot off the pedal but they might just have too much for Parramatta in any case. Tight finish here.
FULL TIME: min: NEWS The Melbourne Storm have hung on to defeat the Parramatta Eels by 12 points to 6 this afternoon at Olympic Park. Match report to come...
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Antonio Kaufusi
2 - Nathan Hindmarsh
1 - Matt Geyer