Near perfect Storm shatters Eagles’ title defence

Tim Prentice Columnist

By Tim Prentice, Tim Prentice is a Roar Expert

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    The Storm will be full of confidence when they face the Knights on Saturday. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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    Melbourne Storm have romped into the NRL grand final for the fifth time in seven years via a 40-12 demolition on an error-prone Manly at AAMI Park.

    The Storm piled on seven tries to two in a ruthless display that must entitle them to title favouritism whether they play the Bulldogs or the Rabbitohs in next Sunday’s decider.

    Halfback Cooper Cronk handed in a masterly display, scoring two tries and paving the way for three more with his silky passing and kicking skills.

    With a colourful and often bitter history between the two heavyweight clubs, the game was billed as an ‘early’ grand final but failed to live up to that status as the Sea Eagles were totally off their game from beginning to end.

    While the Storm were at their lethal, attacking best, Manly was woeful.

    It was remarkable to see a team trying for successive premierships collapse under a mountain of handling and kicking errors (34). To commit so many schoolboy errors and easily hand possession to their opponents must have been embarrassing for Manly fans.

    Melbourne capitalised on almost every Manly blunder and would have won by a greater margin if Cameron Smith had not missed his first three conversion attempts.

    The Eagles were under the pump from the opening minutes with fullback Brett Stewart having to save a try in just the second minute with a great tackle on rampaging winger Mahae Fonua.

    Sustained pressure (and a fumble by Tony Williams) enabled Cronk to open Melbourne’s account in the fifth minute before the video referees again caused uproar with a puzzling decision to award a Billy Slater try.

    Slater clearly lost control of the ball as he burrowed over the try line from dummy half in the eighth minute and the video officials awarded another highly controversial ‘Benefit of the Doubt’ four-pointer.

    Channel 9’s Andrew Johns commented: “It’s an absolute disgrace. Let’s see what spin they put on this (try) during the week.”

    Cronk and Slater combined beautifully to engineer a terrific try for centre Will Chambers midway through the half and at that point, the only thing troubling Melbourne was Cam Smith’s three missed conversion attempts.

    Manly skipper Jamie Lyon got his team on the scoreboard with a converted try from a Kieran Foran bomb kick just before the break. The Storm, incredibly, had enjoyed almost all of the running yet led by only 12-6 at the changeover.

    Many in the crowd of 25,543 thought the second half might develop into a typical Melbourne-Manly arm wrestle but the Eagles were dreadfully below par and got punished repeatedly on the scoreboard.

    For the winners, Cronk was clearly the maestro and his team-mates revelled in the time and opportunities he presented from beginning to end.

    The Storm did not field a bad player. All were made to look like supermen by an inept Manly team.

    Players including Todd Lowrie, Richie Fa’aoso, Jaiman Lowe, Bryan Norrie and Jesse Bromwich ran like bulldozers all night and reaped the rewards.

    Aside from skipper Lyon (two tries) and fullback Brett Stewart, Manly was dreadful.

    Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans unforgivably muffed two goal-line dropouts to concede penalties in front of the sticks, capping off a night that might haunt him for months.

    But DCE had no shortage of partners in crime.

    Big T-Rex Williams was ineffective throughout, Anthony Watmough was hardly seen when needed, playmaker Glenn Stewart was easily contained while centre Steve Matai had a shocker while trying to continue with a leg injury.

    Melbourne repeatedly targeted young winger Jorge Taufua and the tactic paid dividends time and again when his hands let him down.

    First year NRL coach Geoff Toovey was a forlorn figure in the stand as the Sea Eagles conceded error after error to make a truly miserable exit from the 2012 title race.

    While it was a very uncharacteristic performance by Manly, it must be said that the Storm looked every inch a premiership team.

    It’s now up to Sydneysiders Canterbury or Souths to thwart what Melbourne firmly believes is their 2012 destiny.

    A very tall order indeed. The Storm is raging – their opponent will need much more than an umbrella defence to get their measure.

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    The Crowd Says (50)

    • September 21st 2012 @ 11:54pm
      Johnno said | September 21st 2012 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

      To quote Danno1 the roars comments on the live blog.

      “If this was an end of round game of no consequence, say last playing third last, there would be a stewards inquiry.

      God knows what happened to Manly, but I think a few of their players, DCE, Tuafua, Glenn Stewart, Tony Williams and King may be off to the room of mirrors in the off season.

      (I hope Williams learns a bit before he gets to the Dogs!)”

      -Alot of what Danno1 says hold truth. Aside without he quality of Manly eg T-rex and start brothers, lyon, were awful as a team. I was suspicious just watching it it was awful couldn’t believe Manly played the standard that they did.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 8:38am
        Mals said | September 22nd 2012 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        Williams won’t learn Johnno he is a one trick pony with questionable ticker. He is more rocks than diamonds but when on his game he is a match winner.

        • Columnist

          September 24th 2012 @ 6:20pm
          Tim Prentice said | September 24th 2012 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

          T Rex might just become a superstar at Belmore.
          Des will inspire and use him really well. I believe this pony has more than just one trick.
          Dave Taylor, on the other hand, maybe not…..

      • Columnist

        September 24th 2012 @ 6:45pm
        Tim Prentice said | September 24th 2012 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

        Daly Cherry-Evans deserves to get a blast for his non-involvement in this game.
        He got off scot-free in the after game media.
        No, it wasn’t second season syndrome. He simply did not aim up.
        Questions must be asked. He is getting plenty in the pay packet. And really, in 2012, had 5 or 6 really good games.
        Am I alone with this assessment?

    • September 21st 2012 @ 11:56pm
      NF said | September 21st 2012 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

      Manly put up one of the worst prelim finals performance in a long while.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 12:08am
      1Love said | September 22nd 2012 @ 12:08am | ! Report

      Watching the storm just strangle the life out of manly was just beautiful to watch. They are a brilliant well coached side. Even tho manly had more x-factor players the storm contained them and gave them nothing, a champion team will always beat a team of champions! Hopefully my beloved warriors watched and took some lessons from that game lol. Storm to take it all the way!

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 12:11am
      Floyd Calhoun said | September 22nd 2012 @ 12:11am | ! Report

      Strange days. The two most disliked teams in the NRL & AFL, successful as they may be, both travel interstate and are both soundly beaten by teams that weren’t even there a few years ago! Well, the Swans have been around a while, but you get the point. Sydney & Melbourne advance to the Grand Final!

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 6:05am
      Andy said | September 22nd 2012 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      I know what happened to Manly. their completion rates and errors were pretty much the same as when they played the dogs so they had form. I thought Melbourne’s performance against manly was far better then the dogs. Who weren’t much better in the completions and errors, when they played the eagles so i expect Melbourne to win the grandfinal.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am
      oikee said | September 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      Manly were magnificent last night. The best i have seen them play all year. 🙂
      I thought the Storm were off there game a little bit. Very un-storm like. Oh well, hopefully they can improve by next weekend in the Grand Final, yes the Grand Final boys, yeaha.
      This one is for you Cowboys. 🙂

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