Six talking points from Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels NRL qualifying final

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    The Melbourne Storm have survived a scare against the Parramatta Eels in the first qualifying final to book their place in the preliminary finals. Here are my talking points from an intriguing game of rugby league.

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    Melbourne don’t lose milestone games
    It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t clinical, but the Storm find a way to win, especially in milestone games. It’s no small secret that inspirational captain Cameron Smith broke the record for games played in the NRL on Saturday against the Eels, going past Darren Lockyer and taking his tally to 356.

    No matter what your views are on Smith, there is no doubting he is one of the greatest players to ever step on a rugby league field. His milestones always seem that little bit more special, and this year he has already eclipsed 350, 355 last week and now the record breaking 356.

    The Storm have unsurprisingly won all those games. Of course when you have a win record over the last decade like the team from south of the border it’s hard to not win milestone games, but it’s hard to remember the last time the Storm lost one.

    They make it a big deal and seem to all go up a gear. There were times they could have rolled over and let the Eels go past them, but they refused to, putting in a good second-half effort to take the victory.

    It was far from their most polished performance, but you have to think their turnaround had something to do with Smith and his milestone.

    Cameron Smith

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The Eels imploded, but they have what it takes to go with the best
    I’ve been highly critical at times of the Eels through the final weeks of the season – and I’ve been called out for it, which is fair enough.

    This is a side who came from nowhere to finish in the top four. However, they showed everyone why I’ve been so happy to call them out over the final weeks of the season. Their loss to the Knights and their only-just-there win over the Rabbitohs showed they don’t quite have what it takes to go all the way, and that showed up against Melbourne.

    They are a prodigiously talented team, don’t get me wrong. Some of their attacking plays were phenomenal, and they took the already mentioned lead into halftime.

    But if you want to beat Melbourne – or anyone in the finals for that matter – consistency across the full 80 minutes is absolutely crucial, and the Eels couldn’t do that.

    They probably have it in them, but there was no better chance to do that than today.

    Of course that’s me being harsh on them again. Credit where credit’s due, they hung with Melbourne for 40 minutes when the majority thought they wouldn’t, then only went down in a thriller.

    If they can hold the performance for a full game, the Eels can be premiership contenders.

    Parramatta Eels NRL Rugby League Finals 2017

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    Billy Slater is simply the best
    You can’t get much better than Billy the Kid. He has been sensational in 2017 and was again against the Eels, picking up 120 metres, a try, a line break and doing just about everything right in defence.

    Even at his age Slater still outclasses every other fullback in the competition by a considerable distance.

    Melbourne lost the premiership last year, but the Sharks may have got very lucky on grand final day the Storm didn’t have an extra weapon by the name of Billy Slater.

    As long as he stays healthy this year, he will be the difference maker for the men from Melbourne.

    How to shut down the Storm? Control the ball and stop their wingers
    With the Eels pushing away during the first half of the game, they showed exactly how you can beat the Melbourne Storm.

    At halftime in the contest they were completing at 90 per cent. It’s as simple as that. Complete your sets, defend well, build field position and stay patient.

    Patience is probably the best skill you can have against Craig Bellamy’s side. Don’t try to force the miracle play, and you’re half the way there.

    The Eels did exactly that in the first half as they got in front of the contest.

    The other thing about controlling the Storm is to keep the ball away from Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr. They did that excellently, and they defended well a majority of times they managed to get their hands on the ball. They only just cracked 200 metres between them, which is phenomenally low.

    They are the most dangerous outside combination in the competition, and if you want to stop the Storm scoring points, that’s the best way to do it.

    Josh Addo-Carr for the Melbourne Storm.

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    The Storm are boring? Sorry, what?
    There’s a misconception the Storm are a boring football side. They have blown that out of the water more than a few times this season, and it’s not hard to see why looking at their team on paper. Despite that, there were plenty saying the Storm would simply grind their way to boring wins in the finals.

    Yet there was nothing boring about the way they came back against the Eels – nor the way they started the match, for that matter.

    The first ten minutes of the match would have convinced you that the Storm were going to put the hammer down and not look back. Cameron Smith was on fire and Cameron Munster provided them with a whole new level of attack. Billy Slater is still the best fullback in the game, and if there’s ever been a more dynamic wing combination that Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr, I’d like to hear about it.

    Boring? Not this Melbourne team.

    Kenny Bromwich Melbourne Storm NRL Rugby League Final 2017

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    No Moses, no Norman, no Eels
    Unfortunately for Parramatta a big part of them ebbing and flowing through the game was the inconsistency of their halves combination Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman.

    Moses has been absolutely phenomenal since he was signed mid-season from the Tigers. Double-digit try assists, control over the game every week – there’s no question he, and his combination with Norman, is a huge reason why the Eels have pushed their way into the top eight.

    When they were on during the first half the Eels were a delight to watch. The control they exerted was not like anything we have seen against the Storm this season, and taking a 10-4 lead into the halftime break was just reward.

    Unfortunately for the combination, they went off the boil in the second half, and it showed right across the board in the Eels performance as they allowed the purple horde back into the contest.

    If the Eels are going to make a run and beat either the Sharks or the Cowboys next week, it’s down to how well Norman and Moses play off the back of the Nathan Brown-led forward pack.

    Roarers, what did you make of the first qualifying final between Melbourne and Parramatta? Drop a comment below and let us know.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,800 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • September 10th 2017 @ 7:27am
      Taree Raider said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Scott you forgot the minor matter of the Worlds greatest ever sporting side with the greatest ever coach of all time playing in front of the greatest fans in the southern hemisphere. They should not have won the game, it was only because they were given a try off a pass thrown 2 metres forward that happened to be touched by a Parramatta player after it was thrown forward. NO TRY. No win a simple as that.
      If the Storm are so good, why do they ALWAYS get the rub of the green, 50/50 calls & the officials allow their captain to dictate terms to them. They should win easily without it, but they don’t. What does that tell you.

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 7:36am
        The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        How could the pass be thrown “two metres forward” when it was touched immediately out of the hand?

        It also happened in the first couple of minutes of the game.

        That was as 50/50 a call as I’ve ever seen. Fans were going to be up in arms whether it was allowed or disallowed.

        Parra scored from a questionable pass as well and scored two tries while a Storm player was (correctly) in the bin.

        So I can’t see how the refs did the Storm any favours or they got all the 50/50s.

        • September 10th 2017 @ 10:12am
          Andrew said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          I, and everyone around me thought that the ball was clearly thrown forward into an eel, and the linesman stayed in the field of play indicating they thought the same.

          Parra were later denied a try because they were deemed to have thrown the ball forward into Slater. Consistency?

          I believe that there was also an accidental offside at the start of that amazing Storm try where two Storm players grabbed at a loose pass and the one in front picked it up.

          And then there was the 50/50 that denied the Auva’a try.

          And what ended up deciding the game, when Slater dropped the ball trying to play it too quickly… that would have reminded all Eels fans of the 2009 Grand Final when they were coming home with a wet sail, Slater dropped a ball but got a penalty, Storm went and kicked a field goal and game over.

          While i agree the last pass to Radradara for his try was questionable also, I would say the Storm got the better of the 50/50 calls.

          • September 10th 2017 @ 11:07am
            Jacko said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            But your bosses dont know how to look at a forward pass on a replay and make a call……Union does it Sooooooo well yet league does not believe they are capable of deciding from replays……The bunker is useless…Blame the Admin for failing to make decisions

          • Roar Guru

            September 10th 2017 @ 11:12am
            The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

            In that penalty against Slater he was getting to his feet and he had King holding his ankle and Alvaro flopped over his upper body. That was a penalty every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Could have been two penalties!!! ?

            Alvaro elbowed a Storm player in the face and didn’t get binned. Munster offside did.

            I thought the pass from Chambers to JAC was ok and JAC was juggling the ball and not actually touching it when his feet were on the line. By the time he had control of the ball he was well inside the sideline.

            I thought the Curtis pass was fine. I don’t know how anyone could definitely say it went forward when it was touched immediately on it leaving the hand. I thought Curtis had made enough of an effort to propel the ball backwards. If it had been ruled no try I’d have been fine with that too, it was one of those things.

            You’re just looking at everything that you perceive went against the Eels. I get that but it doesn’t make for an objective analysis. Particularly when you’re calling out things that happened eight years ago.

            I was watching purely as a neutral. With the way the Eels went in the first half I was cheering for them by half time. I saw a few calls that could have gone the other way but I saw the same for Melbourne. Certainly no howlers that warrant the level of outrage I’ve seen.

            The refs didn’t cost the Eels the game. Their ill discipline in the second half did.

            • September 10th 2017 @ 1:02pm
              Rick K said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

              A well balanced view on your article The Barry, I am a storm follower but I give credit where its due, I myself thought the try to Aldo Carr was forward, but it was nullified by the Parramatta try in the 2nd half which I thought was foreword, why did Parramatta lose, in my opinion ill discipline in the second half caused them to lose the game, as for the best on the field Storm, yes I know he would say that, but as I said give credit where its due, Parramatta reviews all seem to be one sided from their fans. if you want my opinion I think it will be a Eels, storm grand final. providing they don’t lose it, start playing football instead trying to put in the stoush.

            • Roar Guru

              September 10th 2017 @ 1:13pm
              Scott Pryde said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

              Well summed up TB as always…

              Gents, I think you can talk till the cows come home about the referees, but the bottom line is, someone is going to be disappointed on 50-50 calls. That’s rugby league.

              • September 10th 2017 @ 7:36pm
                Roach said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

                Scott so disappointed with the reply I have been back to watching games and some teams get it good and others not.

            • September 10th 2017 @ 7:33pm
              Roach said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

              Barry you actually need to sit down and watch the Storm objectively through the year and make an assessment. The other responders just maybe have some valid ideas and opinions. Not all responders see the game through a subjective lens. Most fan just want it to be 50/50.

              • Roar Guru

                September 11th 2017 @ 4:56pm
                The Barry said | September 11th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

                What does that mean? I’ve watched them objectively all year. I’ve watched them objectively for years and as a neutral fan I watched Saturdays game objectively.

                Why is my lens subjective?

                Objectively what I think most fans want is 50/50s that go their way, which they can then happily forget about.

                When a 50/50 goes against them it’s the worst decision ever, evidence of a conspiracy, NRL in crisis, etc. That’s the subjectivity.

          • September 10th 2017 @ 3:54pm
            Andrew said | September 10th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

            People that like the storm will see it one way, the rest see it another. brad arther summed it up well, storm get consistency, eels got 50/50 calls. But thats my opinion, hopefully eels will get the rub of the green against a melbourne team in a final series one day.

      • September 10th 2017 @ 7:37am
        Duncan Smith said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

        What about Radrada’s try off the forward pass?

    • Roar Guru

      September 10th 2017 @ 7:28am
      The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Parra did brilliantly well yesterday. I didn’t give them much hope of taking it to the Storm but they almost got there.

      But the Storm did equally well to get back in it and go ahead. Some of their tries were breathtaking. At 18-10 I thought the scoreline might blow out but Parra came back at them.

      I thought this was an absolutely cracking game. Intense, great D, some brilliant off the cuff attacking play, low errors.

      There were a couple of times where Norman and Moses would combine on the right and then next play both be on the left and passing to each other. Hopefully this is an emerging trend.

      Parra have definitely laid the blueprint for beating the Storm. It’s not easy that’s for sure but I think the keys are:

      1. Play adventurous footy – don’t let them settle into a routine
      2. Low error rates – don’t give them the ball in good field position
      3. Aggression in the middle third
      4. Absolute focus on holding the defensive line
      5. Keeping the back three quiet is almost impossible

      Parra did this so well in the first half but lost their discipline in the second with basic handling errors and some daft unnecessary penalties. I love Ma’u but he was a liability yesterday, not in his general play but with the penalties he gave away.

      Great effort by the Eels. Great comeback by the Storm. Great game overall.

      You’ve been busy this weekend Scott with pre-game articles, post match wrap ups and last nights blog.

      Not just quantity content but quality too. Well done and thanks for your efforts!

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 7:35am
        BigJ said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        Your in a very positive mood this morning Barry. Glad you enjoyed the game, but i didnt think it was that great. Looking forward to the upset of thd year today. GO COWBOYS!!!!

        • Roar Guru

          September 10th 2017 @ 7:45am
          The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

          I thought it was great to see the Storm so challenged particularly with the pre series narrative that they were unstoppable.

          Seeing how good they could be when pushed all the way was very entertaining.

          Parra played extremely well and with a bit of luck and a bit better execution in the second half could have won.

          • Roar Guru

            September 10th 2017 @ 8:13am
            BigJ said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

            I agree they pressured the Storm and thier ill discipline in the second half cost them the game. They might get another shot again in the grand final. But we will see. But for today im be hoping for a Cowboys win

          • September 10th 2017 @ 11:08am
            Jacko said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            The Storm were unstoppable…..

      • September 10th 2017 @ 10:04am
        MPC said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Do 1 and 2 contradict each other? Completion rates are a misleading statistic.

        • Roar Guru

          September 10th 2017 @ 11:17am
          The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          I don’t think they do.

          What I’m trying to get at is that teams can’t just play a dour game, they need to give the ball a bit of air but also ensure that they complete well.

          I’m not too fussed about completion rates but if you give the Storm the ball too easy and in good field position you’re in trouble. That’s probably true against most teams but especially the Storm.

          It’s a massive ask to play attacking and execute well but Parra did it brilliantly in the first half.

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm
        Scott Pryde said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        The five-point plan is pretty much on the money TB. Point 5 is the most important one though – as good as Slater/Cronk/Smith/Munster are, their wings are the best combination in the comp, and I thought the Eels did a pretty damn good job of keeping them quiet yesterday. The Eels will learn from that performance if they play Melbourne again come GF day… But Melbourne probably go up another gear as well.

        And yeah mate – been a very busy weekend. I’m on this arvo’s blog as well. Appreciate it mate!

      • September 11th 2017 @ 4:20pm
        Noel M said | September 11th 2017 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

        Add No.6.. Make sure you undo the shoelaces of the opposition as per the scrum in the 60th minute. Un-named because un-sighted Parra player reaching across the front row and un-doing the opposition players shoelaces.(Twice). I was amazed the commentators either didn’t see it or deliberately didn’t comment.

    • Roar Guru

      September 10th 2017 @ 7:31am
      BigJ said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Certainly not the best performance by the Storm, but a win is a win. Hate to say it but the Eels lost that game more so than the Storm won. The Eels completion rate and discipline in the second half was pathetic. If they were more disciplined they probably could’ve won that game. Maybe

      But they were they own emeny and now have to play the winner of todays game??? Or Penirth??? Either way if they win theyll probably bail out next week

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 1:17pm
        Scott Pryde said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        Parra play the winner of today’s game next week Big J.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 7:32am
      steveb said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      The refs the bunker .It went to NRL script .

      • September 10th 2017 @ 7:39am
        Duncan Smith said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        The NRL wants Parra to win the comp – see Roy Masters’ article today in the SMH.

        • Roar Guru

          September 10th 2017 @ 10:14am
          MyGeneration said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          “It’s that time of the year when paranoia rustles though leagueland, picking up tiny coincidences and spinning them into chilling conspiracies.” Yep, Roy’s on to it.

        • September 10th 2017 @ 10:14am
          Andrew said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          You mean Melbourne local Roy Masters?

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 8:06am
        BigJ said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        Sadly Steve the evidence is mounting to support your claim

        • September 10th 2017 @ 8:18am
          kingcowboy said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          Evidence is mounting? Seriously my brain hurts after reading some of these comments. At the end of the day, it is a game of footy. Storm won and the Eels lost. Move on!

        • Roar Guru

          September 10th 2017 @ 8:25am
          The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          No, evidence is not mounting.

          What evidence? A 50/50 call on a forward pass in the first ten minutes of a preliminary semi final is evidence of what exactly?

          It’s usually the same people who say the NRL are inept and couldn’t run a chook raffle who then accuse the NRL of orchestrating an organisationally wide and deep conspiracy to generate specific results without a whisper or a leak.

          • September 10th 2017 @ 8:53am
            kingcowboy said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

            TB these are the same people who believe the earth is flat!

          • Roar Guru

            September 10th 2017 @ 9:55am
            steve b said | September 10th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            I have run many successful chook raffles lol.

          • Roar Guru

            September 10th 2017 @ 10:23am
            MyGeneration said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            The NRL are also orchestrating the North American hurricanes via deep sea bunkers their NSWRL forebears had built with the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis, TB. Their forward thinking is legendary. They just can’t work out why putting on a game between Manly and Penrith in Moore Park doesn’t attract a crowd, but they’ll get to that once they perfect the match fixing. Honestly, do some of these ‘fans’ ever look at the evidence?

            • Roar Guru

              September 10th 2017 @ 10:39am
              steve b said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              I don’t think any one believes in match fixing but really the refs give us lots of ammo to suggest it. I mean have a look at some of the decision s yesterday bloody woeful so why not have dig at em.Social media went into meltdown after both games the in consistency is evadent and the fans are sick of it. And wow I didn’t now the NRL could control the weather to who would have thought.

              • September 10th 2017 @ 11:46am
                Bigj said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

                Gambling is allowed in the nrl.these days, evidence enough that match fixing is more than possible

              • September 10th 2017 @ 6:50pm
                yung said | September 10th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

                noone believes in match fixing?? lol

                if you dont you are living in a fairyland. same teams [strangely always outside nsw] ALWAYS get the rub of the green

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 1:18pm
        Scott Pryde said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Ah, conspiracies.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 10th 2017 @ 8:32am
      Joe said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Totally agree about Billy Slater. His try showed all his class, overran the ball then ran back again to be in position for another kick by Ado-Carr who also showed good skill with the kick. I have to say though Eels played really great footy especially in the first half where they had the Storm rattled. By the end of the first half they were well on top both physically and psychologically but the Storm found something in the sheds and came out firing to start the second. The try was something spectacular. Out of the games this weekend I had picked this as a possible upset and that nearly was the case. I’m glad that Storm had that off game and an almighty scare which they needed to get out any sense of overconfidence. I also thought all the pre-match and hype over the 356 game was getting to be too much of a distraction. They pretty much played the worst game they’ve played in a long while and also had a player binned and still managed to win. Hopefully that was the wake up call they needed to knuckle down for the rest of the finals series.

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 8:43am
        The Barry said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Interesting perspective Joe.

        I didn’t think the Storm were too bad…I thought the Eels really took it to them, unlike any team has for a while.

        Eels let themselves down with handling and penalties in the second half but the Storm still had to play some brilliant footy to win.

        Cracking game…good luck for the rest of the series.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 10th 2017 @ 9:28am
          Joe said | September 10th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          You’re right, the Eels really played outstanding especially their defense and some great touches from Moses. I thought Will Smith really stood up in this game as well, I think he can actually be a pretty good NRL grade fullback on a fulltime basis. Some really unlucky and dumb penalties in the second was a momentum stopper. Also agree that Storm had to play brilliant footy to win…especially that try in the 2nd half but I thought Eels were better for longer periods whereas the Storm had about 25 mins of good footy and then had good enough defense to keep them out. Was a great game to watch!

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Edward Kelly said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        Billy Slater is a class player but he also has a cynical side to his game. At least twice he won very soft but very crucial penalties, call it game play or whatever but those two dives took the gold glint off his performance.

        • September 11th 2017 @ 10:26am
          BleakCity said | September 11th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

          Billy has always had those sides to his game. I was trying to explain to a storm supporter why he gets booed much more than any other player. “Well when he gets tackles he acts like he’s been shot in the back, when he drops the ball he always seems to get a penalty, when he makes a tackle there always seems to be a “stray” knee or elbow and when someone tries to contest a bomb with him he sticks a boot out in there direction”…and right on cue bingo he won his side the match winning penalty. Great player, but classy? No.
          Good luck to him, he’s got it down to a fine art & it helps win his sides lots of games…

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        Scott Pryde said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        Could be a good point about the Storm almost needing a bit of a scare Joe – Craig Bellamy won’t take that lightly. Expect them to be ruthless in their remaining games.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 8:54am
      Joe campo said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      Semis received the pass which was passed backwards but floated forwards… there is a difference .. the Melbourne pass came out of the hands forward

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