Craig Bellamy has praised his side's defensive efforts against the Cowboys as the Storm's stubbornness at the back was a key factor in their 16-10 win over North Queensland on Saturday night.
A preliminary final now awaits the Melbourne Storm, as they try to go one better than they did in 2015, when the Cowboys knocked them out at the penultimate hurdle.
In a first half that yielded only one try a piece, Melbourne were on the back foot for a long period of the opening 40 but held the Cowboys off, which was something Bellamy was particularly thrilled about.
"I thought we were tremendous tonight, we were good last week but got a little untidy the last 15 minutes, but I thought we controlled the game really well [tonight]," Bellamy said.
"We were really good to start the game, we had plenty of footy early, we had a lot of field position but just couldn’t get across the try line. When the tide did turn and it was always going to turn that was the defining moment for me, when Thurston got about three or four goal-line dropouts, they had four or five sets on our try line there and we didn’t buckle.
"For me that sent a message that if you want to come and attack our try line, we're going to grit our teeth and defend it."
"I'm real proud of the way we controlled the game, and I'm real proud of the effort we put in. To go to another prelim is a real pat on the back for all our players for the job they've done this year.
Storm captain Cameron Smith was equally pleased with the result, and credited his teammates most with the way in which they backed up from last week's win against Cronulla.
"We've played these guys three times this year, playing the reigning premiers three times is a tough ask, but we've come away with three victories so it's quite pleasing," Smith said.
"I'm just really pleased with the way the boys turned up again this week on the back of last week. There was a lot to play for last week with the minor premiership up for grabs and one of our players had a milestone in front of a big crowd, but tonight I thought we really took our opportunity really well."
Melbourne will now enjoy a one week break before preparing for the preliminary final and although they followed the same path last season, they'll be hoping for a different result this time around.
Craig Bellamy's men were beaten by North Queensland after a week off in the 2015 NRL Finals Series and while the Storm have already prepared for how the next two weeks will play out, the coach admits they'll be planning it a little differently to how it was done last season.
"We know exactly what we're doing. We had four programs for if we won or lost, and whether we played Friday or Saturday in two weeks' time so we'll stick to that," Bellamy said.
"We've planned it pretty thoroughly, we're aware of what we want out of this week and what we want out of next week, so there were four options and we're going option one.
"We're going to change it a bit from last year. That's not to say our schedule was the problem last year, that's probably the last thing that was the problem, but we'll probably give the players a little rest at a different time than what we did last year, and we'll see how that goes."
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