Smith's pre-game pep-talk inspires Storm win
A pre-game pep-talk from Storm skipper Cameron Smith inspired his side to one of their best defensive performances of the season against Penrith on Monday night.
Smith revealed after their win how he gathered his teammates before the match to stress the significance of returning home with the two points given the logjam in the middle of the NRL table.
A loss would've had Melbourne just two points ahead of the 11th-placed Dragons, but Monday night's victory takes them within two points of second-placed South Sydney.
"That was our predicament tonight. I actually spoke to the boys before the game about how important this match was tonight for us," Smith said.
"A loss tonight could've put us in a real sticky situation. We might've had to win our final two matches to try and even stay in the eight, given the teams around us are going pretty well."
Despite being without in-form prop Jesse Bromwich, who stayed at home for the birth of his child, Melbourne were in the control for most of the match, holding Penrith to just six points until conceding a second try late in the game.
Smith said Monday night's defensive effort set the standard as they moved closer to the finals.
"The boys did a great job. Obviously losing Jesse late with the birth of his child, we were hoping that he was going to play but unfortunately he didn't end up making it up here which is understandable," Smith said.
"But I thought out forward pack did a really good job to take up the slack there. He's been our forward leader all season in every match he's played in. I thought we did a great job through the middle to make sure they didn't get a roll on tonight.
"It was a good performance defensively. That's where we need to be. That's the standard that we need to continue now for the rest of the season."
Now awaiting the Storm is a monster clash with defending premiers the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night – a game that could see Melbourne leap Penrith into the all-important top four.
With the final game of the regular season against fellow top-eight hopefuls Brisbane at home, Smith described the final fortnight as a perfect tune-up for the semis.
"From my experience, it's always nice to play in tough games leading into the finals because let's face it, there's no easy games once you get into the finals series," he said.
"It's good preparation, given that the Roosters are definitely going to be there. So if we finish in the top eight, [and] hopefully if we go all the way, you're probably going to meet them again sometime.
"The last time they played us, they give us a pretty fair lesson in how to play finals footy. They had a really strong game on the weekend, they're playing some good footy as well so it's a huge challenge for us to get up for this one. It's a five-day turnaround. We head home tomorrow then fly back Friday for the game on Saturday."