Sloppy Storm exposed in first loss
The unbeaten Melbourne Storm entered their grand final rematch against the Cronulla Sharks fully aware of the error-riddled efforts littered in their perfect 5-0 start to the season.
Despite uncharacteristically sloppy performances from the generally clinical Storm, their hostile and aggressive defence was enough to remain unbeaten.
Perhaps winning was disguising their faults but Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and his side saw the writing was on the wall.
They knew it was a matter of time before ill-discipline caught up with them, and it was the reigning premiers who jumped on the opportunity to add to their grand final misery and hand them their first loss of the season.
"We got what we deserved," Bellamy said. "It’s been coming for a couple of weeks.
"Their efforts have got us through games but [not] today playing with those conditions against a really good team. But we’re not completing our sets [or] hanging on to the ball long enough to build any pressure.
"Our effort again was tremendous defensively. But with the ball, jeez."
Despite the difficult slippery wet-weather football on Sunday, Bellamy was left lamenting his side’s continuous struggles with ball control again after a similar careless performance against Wests Tigers in torrid conditions in Round 3.
"We all got sunburnt at the Tigers but our completion rate was terrible there in the first half too," Bellamy said. "Our efforts got us out of it in weeks before, but when you play a side like [the Sharks], you need a little bit more.
"Our completions are embarrassing. The figures and how we’re losing the ball, it’s not pretty to watch."
The Storm completed just 14 of their 23 first-half sets before finishing with 27 out of 40 sets for the match.
It left Bellamy and skipper Cameron Smith at a loss when explaining the side’s lapses, and re-iterated the drastic need to amend their errors for the rest of the season.
"I don’t know how we fix it," Smith said. "It’s been a discussion we’ve had fairly consistency after every match the last few weeks.
"We’ve got high standards for our performances and that was well below it today."
Moving forward, Melbourne travel to Brookvale to take on rivals the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, with Bellamy quickly searching for answers.
"I don’t know, have you got a couple of answers?" Bellamy asked. "I’d be happy to know because we’ve tried a few things and it ain’t working."
The Storm await the return of forward Jesse Bromwich, who Bellamy said was a possible inclusion to face the Sharks, while centre Cheyse Blair is unlikely to take his place.