Storm book preliminary final berth
The Melbourne Storm have advanced to week three of the Telstra Premiership finals series and ended the minor premiers' memorable 12-game winning streak with a tough 20-18 victory at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Taking Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck completely out of calculations, on top of completely frustrating the Tricolours – who struggled with their backline depth all game – out of the proceedings by their constant slowing down of the ruck Melbourne have now earned themselves a home preliminary final.
A rare try from unlikely match-sealer prop Tim Glasby with nine minutes remaining would ultimately prove the difference as the Storm handed their opponents their first loss since being defeated by the Sharks 10-4 back in Round 13.
The Roosters are now set to play on Friday night at Allianz Stadium against the winner of Saturday's elimination final between the Bulldogs and Dragons, while the Storm will enjoy a week off, helpful given they finished the match with just 14 fit players.
Speaking after the victory, Storm coach Craig Bellamy was pleased with his side's efforts in defence, but noted Melbourne must improve in attack.
"I thought we made it hard on ourselves a few times with the footy," Bellamy said. "Our defence, at the end of the game too, but especially in the first half we didn't build a whole lot of pressure and I thought they built more pressure but our defence was really good. We set ourselves some pretty good standards over the past month and we held up those standards."
In what was a dour opening half with the Roosters up 8-6, the Storm drew level in the 48th minute from the boot of skipper Cameron Smith.
An error from Tuivasa-Sheck on his own line gave Melbourne a golden opportunity to go ahead, doing so in the 54th minute when they swung it wide for makeshift centre Tohu Harris to assist Kurt Mann to score and secure a 14-8 lead, with Mann shifting to the wing after Marika Koroibete failed to return from the sheds at half-time due to a lacerated Achilles.
After spending much of the second stanza in their own half the Roosters hit back amazingly in the 65th minute from a memorable run from Jennings; who after beating five men passed to Hastings to provide an inch-perfect kick to the chest of Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Maloney's missed goal denied the Roosters a chance to draw level.
Six minutes later the Storm returned to their end of the field, and with two notorious leapers in Duffie and Daniel Tupou looking to catch a Cronk kick, it would be prop Tim Glasby who would pick up the scraps to score just his second try of the year.
The Roosters weren't done with yet though and drew within two points again two minutes later. After collecting the short kick-off following Glasby's try, Ferguson pegged one back on Munster and Mann when he forced his way in barnstorming fashion.
However it wouldn't be the Roosters' night, who would be lamenting their first-half form when after a scrappy start Melbourne were first to score in the 10th minute when fullback Munster was fed the ball out wide, where he made Ferguson the fool, before sending it out to Koroibete to score in the corner.
A costly error from Storm five-eighth Blake Green proved a gift for the Roosters – with the flat outfit struggling to get a roll on in the first quarter of the game – when lock Sio Siua Taukeiaho forced his way over in the 19th minute.
In remarkable fashion a Sam Moa offload allowed hooker Jake Friend to pass on to a sprinting Taukeiaho who was able to swap the ball from one hand to the other as he was falling with three defenders on him to score.
With the game in the balance the Roosters finally looked to have clicked into gear after half an hour of play, but the hardy Storm defence weren't having any of it with their slowing down of the ruck paying dividends. Yet poor discipline meant a James Maloney penalty goal proved the difference at half-time.
It could've been a greater lead if not for Roosters centre Michael Jennings dropping his chance of scoring in the 36th minute from a wicked Hastings grubber – a chance that could have very well proved the difference in the grand scheme of things.
Melbourne Storm 20 (Marika Koroibete, Kurt Mann, Tim Glasby Tries; Cameron Smith 4 Goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 18 (Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Blake Ferguson Tries; James Maloney 3 Goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 20,521. Half-time: Roosters 8-6. Injuries: Marika Koroibete (Storm) – lacerated Achilles, Jordan McLean (Storm) - knee, Tim Glasby (Storm) - knee.