SYDNEY: Melbourne Storm have stamped themselves rugby league’s team of the decade by snatching a second premiership from four straight grand finals – but only just.
Riding a patch of form as purple as its colours, Melbourne held off a barnstorming finish from gallant outsiders Parramatta to triumph 23-16.
The stirring victory sends both the NRL and the AFL titles to Victoria following Geelong’s triumph over St Kilda last weekend.
But the scoreline belied how close the Eels came to engineering the unlikeliest of fairytale endings.
Attempting to end a 23-year premiership drought, and to become the first team to plunder a grand final from eighth position, Parramatta scored two late tries to close the gap from a comfortable 16 points to a shaky six.
The Eels continued to threaten the Storm line until a questionable penalty to Melbourne, then a Greg Inglis field goal three minutes from time extinguished their brave fightback.
It was an especially sweet triumph for Storm captain Cameron Smith, who missed last year’s grand final through suspension, and for five-eighth Brett Finch, who was dumped by Parramatta earlier in the season.
It was also a day to remember for Inglis, who scored a second-half try under the posts and who played the grand final under the shadow of a court case alleging assault of his former girlfriend.
The performance of another Storm try-scorer, Billy Slater, won the Clive Churchill medal for man of the match.
Slater may also have sewn up the Australian fullback position for the coming Four-Nations tournament from his biggest rival, Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne.Hayne, the Dally M player of the year, is regarded by many as the world’s best player on current form, but was denied the time and space to turn on his true magic.
Hayne had taunted his opponents by wishing them “good luck” in their attempts to stop him.
Melbourne didn’t need good luck, just good management.
The Storm players, like Geelong in the AFL decider a week earlier, were attempting to turn their dominance of recent years into a dynasty.
Failure would have left them with just one title from four grand finals.
It was just not an option.
In the end, not even Hayne, or the human wrecking ball known as Fuifui Moimoi, or the hit-a-minute tackling machine called Nathan Hindmarsh, could stop them. – AAP