South Sydney’s first finals game in five years and just their second since 1989 didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped as Melbourne swept to an easy 24-6 win in Week One of the finals last season.
Much of the pre-match hype focused on the clash of the No.1s, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis, and the early signs weren’t good when an Inglis short ball went astray and Slater swooped to instigate an 80-metre movement that eventually saw Mahe Fonua held up over the try line. While the Rabbitohs escaped on that occasion, they weren’t so lucky a few minutes later when Ryan Hoffman stormed onto a short ball close to the line to open the scoring. Hoffman was in the thick of the action again in the 24th minute as he threw a superb offload for Slater to cross as the lead stretched to 14-0.
Nothing was going right for Souths and when Nathan Merritt put down a simple Cooper Cronk kick, Fonua found himself crossing on the left edge following some great lead-up work by Gareth Widdop.
Melbourne led 18-0 at the break and they just about put the game to bed when Sisa Waqa finished off a sweeping backline move six minutes into the second half to make it 24-0.
To South Sydney’s credit though, they put an end to the Storm’s scoring there and finally added a try of their own with eight minutes remaining as Eddy Pettybourne crashed over.
While Melbourne enjoyed only marginally more possession at 51 per cent, it was their kicking game that proved decisive with Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith combining for 844 metres with the boot to the Rabbitohs’ 531.
Waqa worked particularly hard for the Storm, with 19 runs for 176 metres, while Fonua contributed 146 metres on the other wing.
Inglis ran for a game-high 203 metres for Souths, with Michael Crocker making 38 tackles.