The Storm cruised through to Sunday’s premiership showdown with the Eels, rolling a low-key and disappointing Brisbane side in easy fashion before a not-bad-for-Melbourne crowd at Etihad Stadium.<br><br>While more than 70,000 supported Friday night’s Eels-Bulldogs Preliminary Final, 27,687 turned out to watch the Storm dismantle the Broncos’ title dream. <br><br>The home side scored a decisive seven-tries-to-two knockout, with centre Greg Inglis outshining his Test star opponents Justin Hodges and Israel Folau to bag a brilliant hat-trick of four-pointers. <br><br>The Broncos were off the pace all night. In just the fourth minute Will Chambers breached their line untouched from close range for a 6-0 lead. Billy Slater then conjured a wonderful solo effort to make it 10-0 after 21 minutes before Dallas Johnson was given a benefit-of-the-doubt green light on a dubious grounding to make it 16-0 after 26 minutes. <br><br>The game was as good as decided when Inglis crossed for the first time, fending off Justin Hodges in a short burst down the left edge before an extravagant grounding that saw him slam the ball down with his left hand and then somersault-tumble before jumping to his feet.<br><br>The Broncos had the smell of death about them as they headed to oranges 22-0 down. The ploy of playing Darren Lockyer at halfback in place of the injured Peter Wallace had borne no fruit – although in fairness it wasn’t the reason for their defeat. After seven straight wins they simply lost their drive.<br><br>When Inglis strolled over after a lovely scrum move 40 metres out that saw five-eighth Brett Finch pack into the scrum at lock, peel off to pick up the ball, draw in the defence and fire a wonderful offload to the flying centre, the Storm were booking flights to Sydney. And the Broncos’ were knackery-bound.<br><b><br>The Game Swung When…</b> Broncos’ winger Jharal Yow Yeh ambitiously attempted to field a Storm clearing kick on the half volley with just a minute-thirty on the clock. He almost pulled it off, but didn’t. His knock-on gave the Storm field position 20 metres out and three tackles later Chambers was in off a Finch left-to-right try-assist pass.<br><br>Penalties and errors stung the Broncos all night. The Storm were clinical in their payback.<br> <br>In the 18th minute Israel Folau was pinged for holding legs in a tackle. It sent the Storm on the attack 40 metres out and later that set Slater scored. In the 22nd minute Nick Kenny lost the ball and was jolted into tomorrow by a huge Inglis hit; Johnson scored from the set after the turnover. <br><br><b>Who Was Hot…</b> Inglis, obviously. And Slater. The Storm attack opened up the game early and threw the Broncos’ structures into disarray. This open-style suited the individual talents of Inglis and Slater and they shone accordingly, making seven line breaks to the Broncos’ two.<br><br>With the scoreboard regularly ticking over all the Stormers rose in confidence and had their moments.<br><br>Ryan Hoffman was awesome, contributing 13 tackle breaks, a try assist, a line break and 149 metres. Dallas Johnson made a game-high 43 tackles, plus a try and a line break. <br><br>Brett Finch – who will become the first NRL player to play in a grand final against a team he started out the same season with – was outstanding with two try assists and 28 tackles.<br><br>Cameron Smith (two try assists) was decisive out of dummy-half (six runs). He claimed a milestone in the 45th minute, a conversion taking his Storm career points tally to 878, making him the most prolific scorer in Melbourne’s 12-year history. (He finished on 882)<br><br>For the Broncos, Hodges, Lockyer, Folau and Sam Thaiday tried hard… but mostly were flat as week-old roadkill.<br><br><b>Who Was Not…</b> The Broncos were off the pace from the kick-off. They didn’t appear to have much crowd support, playing as they were 2000 kilometres from their fan base. Any Dragons player watching must have been wondering how it was they lost to these jersey colours just seven days previously.<br><br><b>Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… </b>Ten minutes in Billy Slater looked to have grounded a smidgin of ball on the try line. Referee Jared Maxwell called Slater short. Slater called for the play to be referred to the video referee. Maxwell was unresponsive. But video replays supported Slater. Woops. And in a Preliminary Final!<br><br>In the 21st minute Slater went for a run down the right fringe. Knowing the cover defence would surely nab him he decided to grubber ahead into vacant space, whereupon he regathered and fell over the line to score. Beautiful insight.<br><br>In the 63rd minute Slater performed the ultimate Houdini defensive move, wrapping up man mountain Tonie Carroll over the tryline without the ball touching the ground.<br><br>With a shake of his head, Dallas Johnson conceded he hadn’t grounded the ball for a try in the 26th minute. But television replays showed Johnson had the most tenuous of touches on the ball as it was planted over the stripe. That’s all that matters in according to the rule book in 2009.<br><br>In the 69th minute Inglis thrust out his left hand to block a Sam Thaiday pass that looked like providing an overlap on the right edge. The batting motion popped the ball up, Inglis regathered and sprinted 70 metres to score adjacent to the posts.<br><br>Minutes later Cameron Smith chipped a cross-field bomb that the Broncos allowed to bounce in then in-goal to the right of the goalposts. Fullback Karmichael Hunt swung a fist the the ball, AFL style, in an attempt to knock it dead, but missed the ball completely. Billy Slater gratefully accepted the dregs and planted for a gift four-pointer. Hopefully Hunt will get it right in the AFL… sorry – VFL – next year.<br><br>And what about the decision by the referees to allow the Broncos to call it quits after Israel Folau’s try following the fulltime siren? That made it 40-10. If you were sitting at home with a TAB Sportstab Pick The Score ticket for a 40-12 outcome, chances are you’ll be calling for answers from the NRL this week. Surely officials should have enforced the conversion? No repeats of this in future please!<br><br><b>Refs Watch…</b> Although penalties and 50:50 calls seemed to go the Storm’s way no refereeing decisions affected the outcome of this match.<br><br>Maxwell’s aloof response to Slater’s plea for a viewing of his grounding was poor, especially given his sideline official was missing in action and could not have had a clear view of the play.<br><br><b>NRL.com Best & Fairest…</b> 3 points – Billy Slater (Storm): Anything Hayne can do Slater can match; 2 points – Greg Inglis (Storm): Three tries and a world of hurt out wide; 1 point – Ryan Hoffman (Storm): Was almost unstoppable with 13 tackle breaks and great ball skills. <br><br><b>Storm 40 </b>(G Inglis 3, B Slater 2, W Chambers, D Johnson tries; C Smith 6 goals) def <b>Broncos 12</b> (A Glenn, I Folau tries; C Parker 2 goals) at Etihad Stadium. Crowd: 27,687.
You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content