Storm’s old habits too miserly for Dogs
The NRL’s best wrestlers, nigglers and grinders battled it out last night with the Storm’s old habits too much for a valiant Bulldogs outfit.
The old adage that ‘grand finals are won on the back of defence’ was anything but folklore.
Both the Storm and the Bulldogs repealed numerous attacking raids from the opposition to remain in the contest.
But it was the ‘one-percenters’ which significantly separated Melbourne from Canterbury in the decider.
Experience in key moments was telling, and ultimately saw the Storm walk away with the Telstra premiership last night.
The rugby league world was grateful the referees didn’t make a crucial blunder that cost a team the grand final.
It was what they didn’t do which was more telling on the result.
The storm is the best wrestling team in the NRL. Fact.
Canterbury is the second most penalised side in the NRL. Fact.
The bulldogs have won only three penalty counts in the 28 games they have played this season and lost the grand final penalty count 4-5.
The referees were reluctant to blow a contentious penalty if it meant one team had the ascendency over the other; and as a consequence both teams took advantage.
Melbourne is the best at holding teams down in the ruck and slowing down the play the ball.
The Storm’s major tactic was to hold down the fourth tackle play-the-ball. This tactic proved to be effective for one of two reasons.
The first reason is that it would allow the Storm time to rush up on the Bulldogs playmaker, which would cause him to rush his fifth tackle option.
The second reason was the Storm knew the referees didn’t want to give away a penalty on the last tackle, as it would give Canterbury a new set of six in a better attacking position; giving them the ascendency.
The first half scuffle will swarm the media due to the infamous biting scandal, but I want to touch on it for a reason that won’t get recognised.
The fight broke out as a reaction to Krisnan Inu’s push on Billy Slater, after the Sam Perrett try in the 25th minute.
But was it coincidental that Slater reacted the way he did because of the situation? The Bulldogs had just scored to level up the grand final at 4-all.
Instead of running back to the try line with momentum behind them, a fight broke out and players became flustered, breaking any rhythm that could have been built.
This was just old habits that are indicative of the Storm, dictating terms in crucial matches.
The Storm are the best team of the modern era.
Melbourne has played in five of the last seven grand finals and have won three in the process. Salary cap scandal or not, the Storm was beatable in those years.
And with a depleted roster, they have shown they are clinical and methodical enough to win crucial matches.
The Storm’s structure and gameplay are envied by the opposition, with many teams mimicking their style.
Not the Bulldogs.
Canterbury have an attacking style; built on offloads and second phase football to penetrate the ball up field.
Under coach Des Hasler, the dogs surged through the season, making it to the big day, which is not foreign to the former Manly coach as he led the Sea Eagles to three of the last five grand finals.
The Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and Storm coach Craig Bellamy are the best two NRL coaches after Wayne Bennett.
The two teams are different but very much the same.
The Bulldogs have improved in all facets this season but the Storm still continue to be the best at niggling, grinding and defending.
Those three qualities are the fundamentals of big games; all of which the Storm dominate, making them a force in September and October.
Melbourne Storm 2012.
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