Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
2 days ago
The performance confirmed the Storm's standing as a genuine top eight contender and sent a clear warning it is on the hunt for more glory.
The five star display was in complete contrast to round nine when the Roosters handed the Storm a 34-6 hiding at Stadium Australia.
The only blow for the Storm was news that “Mr Versatility” Matt Geyer has a broken collarbone. The NRL veteran was playing five-eighth in place of Scott Hill, who failed to backup from Friday night's international fixture against Great Britain.
“Geyer's injury was the only disappointing part of the game for us,” Storm coach Mark Murray said.
“In terms of our defensive line and completion rate it was one of our best performances against a quality opposition.
“There was a good feeling amongst the players through the week and the performance was very timely. The game was going to have an impact on the rest of our season.”
Melbourne captain Rodney Howe, who returned early from an eye injury, said the Storm is determined to finish the season off with a bang.
“We understand now is the crunch time of the year for us,” he said.
“We are looking for pride in our performances and want to dish up quality displays.
“The boys have had enough and want to finish the year off strongly.”
Despite its limp showing, the Roosters were the first to score.
It took less than five minutes for them to cross over the try line after the ball swept from one side of the field to the other, allowing powerful centre Shannon Hegarty to score in the left hand corner.
But from here on in it was all Melbourne.
It did not take long for the magical Stephen Kearney to place his stamp on the game. Kearney unleashed one of his trademark round the back offloads to winger Semi Tadulala, who scooted across the line for the Storm's first points. Matt Orford's conversion from the sideline hit the posts making it 4-4.
It was Kearney again who had the Roosters in a tail spin only minutes later when he pushed his way through some soft defence to score just right of the posts. Replays revealed Kearney dropped the ball but referee Steve Lyons had already awarded the four points. Orford's conversion gave the Storm a 10-4 lead.
It was clear the Storm's momentum was growing and it did not take long for it to fully kick into gear.
Orford showed his ground skills when he scooped up a dropped ball from lock Luke Ricketson who misjudged a Willie Leyshon kick close to the Roosters' line. Orford picked up the scraps and planted the ball under the black dot to push his team into a comfortable position. His conversion made it 16-4.
Orford again showed his versatility when his chip kick bounced beautifully for Geyer who offloaded to the waiting Marcus Bai. Bai flirted with the scrambling defence before eventually scoring.
The shell-shocked Roosters were hit even harder as the half time hooter sounded when lock Willie Leyshon crossed to the screams of 8, 131 delighted fans cheering him on.
Within the space of 20 minutes the Storm had raced to a 28-4 lead.
And the juggernaught continued to roll on when Orford split the defence only minutes into the second half. Orford's offload to Geyer saw the five eighth throw a one handed ball which bounced off centre Justin Hodges' head and into the waiting arms of Aaron Moule who crossed to bring the score to 32-4.
But Hodges put his “Falcon” behind him when he crashed over shortly afterwards. Craig Fitzgibbon converted to make it 32-10.
It was then hooker Richard Swain who decided it was time to join the party when he held up a timely ball for the bullocking Peter Robinson who scored underneath the posts. Orford's conversion made it 38-10
Swain continued the good form when he threw a cutout ball for Moule who picked it up off his bootlaces and crossed for his second try. Leyshon converted to make it 44-10.
And just when the demolition looked complete centre Steve Bell set up Bai for his second try with only seconds remaining.
The Storm will now enjoy a bye before returning to take on Penrith at Penrith Stadium.
“The bye gives us a chance to freshen up and come back for the final seven games of the season,” Murray said.