NRL Grand Final 2012 – Full-time result: Melbourne 14-4 Bulldogs
Melbourne Storm on route to their 2012 grand final triumph. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Melbourne Storm have been crowned 2012 NRL Premiers following a ruthless 14-4 dismantling of the Canterbury Bulldogs in the 2012 NRL Grand Final at Telstra Stadium on Sunday night.
The Storm began the match with trademark efficiency and Ryan Hoffman barged over for the first try of the game following one of Melbourne’s deadly set pieces from a scrum.
Cameron Smith missed a relatively easy conversion to leave the score at 4-0 but the let-off was only momentary for the Bulldogs.
Smith uncharacteristically missed for a second time from a penalty conversion, and a potential ten-point deficit remained at four, failing to reflect the Storm’s total dominance of the early phases.
They might not have necessarily deserved it, but it was the opening that the Bulldogs needed and it seemed to spark the blue and white.
Ben Barba flashed through some shaky Storm defence and nearly released Josh Morris down the left hand side and only a desperate Sisa Waqa hand prevented what would have been a certain runaway try.
The contest had evened up, and after 25 minutes so had the scoreline, as the Grand Final erupted into life in front of a crowd of 82,976 fans at Telstra Stadium.
Sam Perrett was quickest to react after Krisnan Inu grubbered into the in-goal, touching down before Billy Slater had time to recover for what was a brilliant team try for the Bulldogs.
In the ensuing moments, Slater and Perrett grabbed one another and an all-in melee resulted that took several minutes to be contained.
The try was awarded, but Bulldogs player James Graham was placed on report after Billy Slater alleged he had been bitten in the ear, with referee Tony Archer acknowledging the blood on the Storm fullback’s ear.
The missed conversion left the scores locked at 4-4, and the intensity had lifted noticeably.
Any fault that Slater shared in the Perrett try was soon forgotten moments later, when he found himself on the end of razor-sharp Cronk ball, and skipped past Barba to register his 15th try of the season.
Smith finally found the middle of the uprights on his third attempt, and all of a sudden the Storm had restored their advantage, leading 10-4 with less than ten minutes to the break.
The Storm continued to attack Barba from the air, and while he was beginning to respond to the challenge, ferocious Storm defence meant they’d earn a repeat set of six with 35 minutes gone after dragging Barba back into the in-goal area.
The Bulldogs were abel to repel, but the momentum had well and truly shifted back in favour of the Storm and they dealt out what turned out to be a telling blow on the stroke of half-time.
Cronk, who would go on to be awarded the Clive Churchill medal, had begun to take the game by the scruff of the neck and his pinpoint chip was collected by Justin O’Neill, who crossed to make the scoreline 14-4 going into the break.
Smith missed his third of four conversion attempts to keep the margin at ten points, leaving the Bulldogs with hope of a second-half comeback.
Whatever Hasler said to his troops at half-time seemed to have worked, with the Bulldogs coming out for the second half with renewed vigour.
They quickly set up camp deep in Storm territory and put together four consecutive sets of six, but the Storm held firm.
At the culmination of the fourth set Michael Ennis looked to have crossed for the Dogs but his opposite number Smith held on tenaciously, and Ennis was correctly ruled held up in goal.
Minutes later the Storm were given the chance to extend their lead to two converted tries after Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano was penalised for kneeing in the play-the-ball.
But Cameron Smith astonishingly missed another relatively easy conversion, and the margin remained at ten points.
As the hour-mark passed it seemed as if the Storm would be able to grind out the win like only the Storm can, when Ben Barba slashed through a hole.
He skipped past several Storm defenders before kicking infield to Josh Morris, who toed the ball forward himself toward the line, but the bounce evaded him and it began to seem it wouldn’t be the Bulldogs’ night.
The fact was underlined three minutes later, when Greg Eastwood’s try was disallowed after it the video referee adjudged Jonathan Wright had knocked on a Barba cross-field kick.
The Storm were dealt their own blow at the hands of the video referee moments later, when Bryan Norrie was ruled to have been offside when chasing through Widdop’s kick, which had been skilfully batted back by Slater.
To their credit the Bulldogs continue to press the Storm in the final 15 minutes and there were several occasions when it looked like the Storm’s defence would be breached and the margin reduced to less than six points.
But there would be no fairytale. The best efforts of Barba, Reynolds, Morris and Co were rendered ineffective by a dominant Storm defence that deservedly won the game for Craig Bellamy’s men.
For a team whose legacy, and premierships, had been tarnished as a result of the salary cap scandal, the victory and subsequent 2012 NRL Premiership will go some way to restoring the Storm as one of the most dominant sides of the NRL era.
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