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Clinical Storm blow brave Bulldogs away

Execution ... the Storm's plan to target the Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds pays off as early as the seventh minute when Ryan Hoffman crashes over for the opening try.

Execution ... the Storm's plan to target the Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds pays off as early as the seventh minute when Ryan Hoffman crashes over for the opening try. Photo: Getty Images

'Premierships are won on defence. That's what's we build our game on. Defence, mate. Defence!"

Those words came from an emotional Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater moments after the full-time siren, and his side's hard-fought victory in Sunday's wonderful grand final at ANZ Stadium.

The key to winning big occasion football matches is to come to the big show and get your game on.

The Storm managed to get their "game on" in attack. On the other side of the ball, it was their courageous defensive effort that prevented the Bulldogs from injecting their own brand of footy into the contest.

The Storm set up this victory with a near perfect first half of rugby league that produced a well-deserved 10-point lead at the break. They protected this advantage with an aggressive, well-structured and, when it was needed, desperate defensive effort that kept the minor premiers scoreless for the final 55minutes of the contest.

When in possession, the Storm players were meticulous in their execution. They diligently rolled through their vast repertoire of set patterns and plays. They were relentless with their last-play options to force repeat set after repeat set to starve the Bulldogs of possession and field position.

By half-time the Storm had enjoyed 23 opportunities with the ball, completing an amazing 22 of those sets. Only one error in 40minutes of grand final football. That's an amazing statistic.

By comparison, they restricted the Bulldogs to only 14 possessions, of which the Sydney team could only complete nine sets.

The Storm, very predictably, ran most of their big plays to the left side of the field, where they targeted the defence of young Josh Reynolds. Back-rower Ryan Hoffman brushed past his outside shoulder to score the opening try of the game. Slater surged through a gap on Reynolds's inside shoulder to score the second.

That's getting your game on!

Defensively, the Storm came with an attitude to sprint up quickly on the Bulldogs' playmakers and cut down their thinking time with the ball. Basically, they attacked with their defence. Where other NRL teams have had trouble all year countering the chain-passing raids of the Bulldog forwards, the Storm opted for a fast-moving, spoiling defensive line that was right up in their opponents's faces all night.

The Bulldogs had the better of possession in the second half, and threatened to find some attacking rhythm. However, the Storm's outside backs were brilliant in the way they read the play and effected their tackles.

Key to this operation were the likes of Will Chambers, Sisa Waqa, Dane Nielsen and Justin O'Neill. They rushed up and in, time and time again, cutting off the Bulldogs' outside backs and often winning ground despite not having the ball.

On the few occasions the Bulldogs did find space down the edges, the Melbourne cover defence was outstanding and saved the day.

It was a great team performance by the Storm. The generals gave them direction. The soldiers dutifully went about their work. The speed men down the edges were great both with and without the ball. The stars, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater had their moments; pulling in the reins on trying to be being adventurous, instead relying on a tremendous display of discipline and control to win the day.

The Bulldogs were really courageous. Their first-half defensive effort on their own goal line was inspirational. Lesser teams would have conceded many more points.

The Bulldogs just were never allowed to get into any rhythm whatsoever in attack.

There endeth the lesson.

29 comments so far

  • Sorry Gus. Understand the defensive stance but totally dissagree with you this time. Have been watching Melbourne from the stands in all the grand finals and have not seen that much different to date. Not blaming Melbourne one bit as they have fully utilise the games shortfall to great success. In short, the team that SAFELY runs 5 tackles then kicks a cross ball into the oppositions goal area for a reciever is the winner of the Rugby league grand final and for nearly every other game thats played. Yeah sure, you have to back it up with defence. Unfortunately Melbourne have taken the game very close to the game of rugby union with extemely boring but safe tactics in your own half then try to be creative on the oppositions line with a big kick. If you get way ahead on the scoreline you can afford to throw the ball around a bit rather then kicking it. Get rid of the cross field kick in the oppositions 20 I say as it really is getting very boring to watch!

    Commenter
    Andy
    Date and time
    September 30, 2012, 10:14PM
    • Only thinking the same thing watching the game. With trys so hard to come by and a penalty is worth 2 points. I can near understand why they just do not just take the points. (albiet not with Smith kicking) every two penalties is a try.

      And with good side such as Storm it only take them 5 tackles and a kick to get back into the attacting zone. But Union has the other side being the scrum where men really test each other.

      Commenter
      JP
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 7:14AM
    • Happy to assure you Andy - I was by no means bored!

      Rugby league is and always was a war of attrition first and foremost and it is a perfectly legitimate tactic to simply be the best team that plays within the rules - there is no onus for every point to be scored by the winger in the corner.

      Those grapes of yours may have a particularly sour taste but I think you're obliged to concur that the best team is (almost always) the team that scores the most points, not the one that entertains the most.

      If you want entertaining, I highly recommend the circus!

      Commenter
      BigCrompy
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 1:54PM
  • wow...melbourne were brilliant...i reckon the billy slater punch over morris' head was the match clincher.....im sure bellamy knew that if they were going to win the grandfinal in 2012, they would have to beat the doggies and that they did! they attacked reynolds and cut their chain passing down like a wood chopper chops a tree!! bellamy is the no 1 coach no doubt about it..he is meticulous in his preparation of his team...(also, you cant beat big match players ie slater, cronk and smith)...

    Commenter
    wallygee
    Location
    glenhaven
    Date and time
    September 30, 2012, 10:24PM
    • What a great game! I knew the Storm would win but had no idea how convincingly. They're the team to watch again next year, without a doubt!

      Commenter
      DragonsFan
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 1:00AM
      • Slow in getting off tackled players, off side whenever they can get away with it, stretching the rules to the limit all the time, whining to the referee at every chance, iseemingly mmune from penalties, bank rolled by a media company with very deep pockets ...
        Sure they are athletic, quick and clinical, but having them so far out in front is helping the game in grow in Victoria and making it duller in NSW.
        Three players are dominating Origin and the Finals constantly. Boring.

        Commenter
        Tired of Melbourne
        Date and time
        October 01, 2012, 3:59AM
        • Can anyone else explain this rather unusual comment?

          I can't work out if it favours or opposes the Storm - given that it refers to the Bulldogs failing to roll off players (all the penalties against in the first half) and Ennis whining at the referee - and yet is then critical of the game expanding in Victoria.

          Most odd, Dr Jekyll.

          Commenter
          BigCrompy
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          October 01, 2012, 2:04PM
        • @Tired of Melbourne October 01, 2012, 3:59AM

          After reading your first paragraph I thought you were talking about Canterbury.
          It was then I realised you're a disgruntled Canterbury fan. The Dogs got the biggest leg-up of all the Sydney teams from News Ltd during the superleague war.

          Melbourne have been the best footy team overall for half a dozen years now mainly with their own talent development or recycling unwanted players from other clubs.

          The three players 'boring' you so much are to me akin to when watching cricketer Adam Gilchrist in his prime. See as much as you can of these talents. You may never see the likes of these players again!

          Good luck to the Storm. They deserve their rewards & I for one respect what they've done & how they play. This is all praise from a diehard Manly supporter so my respect is begrudging.

          Commenter
          Geoffs
          Location
          Macarthur
          Date and time
          October 02, 2012, 12:48PM
        • Geoffs - not a doggies fan - just seen too many finals/origin games in recent years dominated by '5 fairly dull tackles followed by a kick to the corner football' - no flair.
          BigCrompy - It's great the game is growing in Victoria, but there is too much disparity between some of the cash poorer teams and the heavily bankrolled outfits like the Storm. Its not the coffee and sunshine in Melbourne that's made the Storm Premiers/Runners up for six of the last seven years, and coincidentally won Qld the same seven Origins ...

          Commenter
          Tired of Melbourne
          Date and time
          October 04, 2012, 1:00PM
      • Storm's sliding defense won the game for them. They look exactly like the Bronco's did during our years of success. Never say die attitude and up in the face defense. Good on the Storm, they played the game of their lives last night. The younger players in the team worked well off the experienced three and were not one bit phased by the occassion. Bulldog's choked, Barba and Perrett the biggest chokers, Keating not much better. Great to see the Storm get back 1 of the premierships taken from them and they did it legally. The better team won on the day.

        Commenter
        Broncos1348
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        October 01, 2012, 6:02AM

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