Even before kick-off, this match was always going to be much more important for the Storm. The final regular-season home match at Olympic Park, the return of Greg Inglis and the possibility of securing a top-four finish... things looked ominous for the bottom-of-the-table Roosters. And after just half an hour things looked even worse for Brad Fittler’s men, down 18-0.
The Game Swung When... Melbourne’s second try ended any chance for the Roosters... they just couldn’t come back from two tries down.
After the Storm’s first try, following a right-to-left shift which found an unmarked Steve Turner to score in the corner, the Roosters rallied and managed to get into strong field position on the back of a Mitchell Pearce 40/20. But the Storm held firm and Greg Inglis’ first try off a well-executed short-side play all but sealed the result, in just the 22nd minute. With the Roosters down on form and down on luck, they were never going to recover from a two-try deficit.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed... The Roosters’ non-existent defence for Greg Inglis’ second try. Just seconds earlier the returning Storm ball-runner and playmaker launched a towering torpedo bomb that fullback Sam Perrett dropped. From the ensuing play Steve Turner received the ball from a shift and finished just a metre short of the line. From the play-the-ball, Inglis dummied and strolled through the attempted tackles of Perrett and Anthony Minichiello. It was way too easy.
Who Was Hot... Billy Slater played just 66 minutes after being rested before fulltime by coach Craig Bellamy but was still the most influential player on the field. Slater ran for 146 metres, made 10 tackle breaks and two line breaks, set up one try and scored another. He’s vital to Melbourne’ premiership campaign.
Who Was Not... Committed fullback Sam Perrett has had a stellar 2009, taking over the custodian role from the injury-plagued Anthony Minichiello... but this match was one he’ll be wishing he could forget. He made three errors – one leading directly to a try – and an attempted tackle on Inglis but woeful. He’d be disappointed in his performance.
Refs watch... Some of the decisions dished out by referees Jared Maxwell and Brett Suttor mystified spectators. On several occasions it wasn’t clear how they’d arrived at their decision, most notably in the second half when they ruled the Roosters had kicked the ball out on the full from the restart at the halfway line. Replays clearly showed the catcher of the football Billy Slater was at least a metre inside the dead-ball line.
Video ref Steve Clark also had his difficulties – Aiden Tolman’s claimed four-pointer contained an obvious knock-on but it took him several excruciating minutes of video replays to find it. He also needed to use “ref’s call” for Will Chambers’ try when it was clear the ball had been grounded. Thankfully Maxwell gave it the green light and awarded the four-pointer. Neither referee did themself a favour with the finals just a fortnight away.
Injuries... Thankfully for the Storm no serious injuries were sustained in the match. Early on Billy Slater appeared to be suffering from an accidental knee to the back – but he played on with no troubles at all. Brett Finch also suffered an arm injury early in the match but played the full 80. Only prop Scott Anderson (leg injury) left the field and could miss some matches.
For the Roosters, no injuries were sustained.
NRL.com Best & Fairest... 3 points – Billy Slater (Storm): Electric and effervescent and couldn’t be stopped; 2 points – Greg Inglis (Storm): A five-star return for ‘GI’ with finals just around the corner; 1 point – Aiden Tolman (Storm): 149 metres, 25 tackles, a try and a line-break for Melbourne’s under-rated forward.
Storm 38 (G Inglis 2, S Turner 2, W Chambers, B Slaters, A Tolman tries; C Smith 5 goals) def Roosters 4 (S Kenny-Dowall try) at Olympic Park. Crowd: 13,332.