Clinical Storm repel Bulldogs bite
Melbourne Storm has won its first premiership since the NRL stripped it of two titles for salary cap breaches.by NRL
Melbourne Storm has won its first premiership since the NRL stripped it of two titles for salary cap breaches.
The Storm defeated the Bulldogs 14-4 in a grand final marred by a biting allegation levelled against Canterbury's James Graham.
The Bulldogs' English forward appeared to bite Storm full-back Billy Slater after a brawl broke out following the 26th minute try to Canterbury winger Sam Perrett.
Graham was placed on report after Slater, with a bloodied ear, made the biting allegation to referee Tony Archer.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and captain Michael Ennis both refused to comment on the incident after the match.
Perrett had levelled the scores after Storm forward Ryan Hoffman scored the opening try of the match in the seventh minute.
But Melbourne half-back Cooper Cronk stamped his class on the match in the back end of the first half.
Cronk, who was awarded the Clive Churchill medal for the best player in the grand final, produced a deft pass for Slater to score in the 32nd minute.
Melbourne consolidated its lead in the shadows of the break with Cronk's pin-point kick for winger Justin O'Neill to score in the corner in the 39th minute.
Melbourne maintained its 14-4 half-time lead through to the end of the game with a superb defensive display in the second half.
Our defence won it: Smith
Storm Skipper Cameron Smith said he has never seen a better defensive effort from his side in a big game.
"I thought our defence was amazing today," Slater told Grandstand after the match.
"We knew it was going to take a special effort to beat these guys. They did not finish minor premiers on a fluke."
Melbourne set the standard for an excellent second half defensive effort when it repelled five successive sets of six early in the second half.
The Bulldogs went close to reeling in the Storm's lead just after the hour mark when full-back Ben Barba broke away down the touch line.
He kicked in field for centre Josh Morris but the experienced Slater was able to knock the high bouncing ball dead.
Slater's performance was not far behind man-of-the-match Cronk.
Slater, along with Cronk, was playing in a fifth grand final. They had won the 2007 and 2009 titles but later had them taken away for salary cap breaches.
"It's just a pleasure playing with this lot," Slater said.
"You see a lot of highlights when we are scoring tries and people doing special things but the work ethic of this group of players is exceptional."
The Storm should have won by a bigger margin but captain Smith only kicked one goal from four attempts.
Smith praised the contribution of coach Craig Bellamy and said there is a difference between he and other coaches in what they do during the year.
"He puts so much time and effort into preparation and knowing what to expect from your opposition on game day.
"I read during the week that he's been through some tough times and was thinking of giving it away. Geez I'm glad he didn't."
Bulldogs courageous in defeat
Losing captain Michael Ennis said the Bulldogs were courageous in defeat but just made too many errors.
"We knew we had to start well and we didn't do that," Ennis said.
"We tried hard the entire match, maybe too hard and we made too many errors."
The Storm's performance had touches of brilliance but mostly it was clinical.
The team completed 32 of 35 sets. As a result the Bulldogs were forced to make more tackles led by captain Ennis, who made 48.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler, who had taken the team from ninth last year to runners-up in his first year at the club, said Melbourne was too good.
"(They were) too clinical, too polished," Hasler said after the match.
"They had 10 of 11 sets on our try line.
"The try right before half-time was a tough one to have that scored against us. To go in 14-4, Melbourne are a very hard team to run down."
Source: ABC Sport
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