The Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles clash in a terrific preliminary final pitting two of the NRL’s most dominant teams against each other for a place in next week’s Grand Final. Join us for NRL live scores and commentary from 7:30pm AEST.
Melbourne and Manly have become a staple in finals football, setting the standard for rugby league excellence over the past few seasons.
In 2011, the Storm were 80 minutes away from their fifth grand final appearance in six years but were denied by a Warriors side that caused a major boilover at AAMI Park. The Storm were defeated 12-20.
That loss has stung Melbourne deeply and they will be keen to make the most of their home ground advantage tonight against the reigning premiers.
After a major hiccup against Canterbury a fortnight ago, the Sea Eagles got back on track with a controversial victory against the in-form Cowboys last week.
Despite securing the win, the Sea Eagles struggled to put the Cowboys away after leading 12 nil early and can ill-afford to drop their intensity against Melbourne tonight.
With Jason Ryles missing for Melbourne, the Sea Eagles possess an important edge upfront and will be keen to turn this match into an arm wrestle.
Manly blew the Cowboys away early up the middle of the park, with Anthony Watmough, Jason King, Tony Williams, Brent Kite and Glenn Stewart all getting over the advantage line for the majority of the first half.
If the Sea Eagles forwards can replicate last week’s intensity, they should just get the better of a hardworking Storm pack.
Manly also need to keep their discipline in check tonight against Melbourne. The Storm were clinical against South Sydney a fortnight ago and kept the Rabbitohs on the back foot for the majority of the contest.
When they find their rhythm, Melbourne is almost impossible to break down, particularly at AAMI Park where star trio Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater continue to dominate.
Playing in front of a big home crowd, the Storm will be keen to get out of the blocks early and will look to punish any ill-discipline that the Sea Eagles produce during the first half.
If Melbourne does manage to get the first try on the board, the Sea Eagles will have a hard time wrestling momentum away from a side that simply loves to play on the front foot.
The same can be said of Manly, who continue to amass a wonderful winning record after scoring the first try of a match.
Manly has won 28 of its past 29 matches after scoring the first try. It is an outstanding statistic that truly demonstrates how clinical and confident the Sea Eagles can become when they register first points.
With both teams known for their clinical and professional edge, tonight’s contest should go down to the wire.
Although the Storm failed to make the most of their home ground advantage last season, expect Melbourne to leave nothing in the tank tonight as they just edge Manly in one of the matches of the season.
Storm by 4