A try to Joe Stimson in the final two minutes helped the Melbourne Storm prevail in a nail-biting 16-13 victory in a scintillating top-of-the-table clash against the Sydney Roosters that surpassed all expectations. It was a drama-filled affair with several moments of madness in what could be a potential fiery grand final preview.
Grand Final preview?
If these two teams meet again in the premiership decider in October, it’s sure to be a doozy. The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have certainly not disappointed all rugby league fans with two ripping matches that both came down to the dying stages.
It was the Roosters who escaped with a thrilling 25-24 win at Adelaide Oval earlier this season before the Storm stole a 16-13 victory in their follow-up match on Saturday night.
In both games, the victors overcame late deficits to prevail.
It seems destined that the Roosters and Storm will cross paths again in the finals series.
Back-to-back Melbourne minor premierships
The Storm’s thrilling top-of-the-table win over the Roosters virtually guarantees a second consecutive minor premiership for the club.
It’s an outstanding effort to gain the achievement with three rounds remaining before the finals and demonstrates the trademark consistency of coach Craig Bellamy’s side for the past two seasons.
However, when asked about it after the match, skipper Cameron Smith was quick to state the gap between his side and the rest of the teams in the NRL isn’t as great as people may think.
“It shows we’ve been more consistent than the other teams but I know everyone isn’t completely happy with where our performances are at the moment,” Smith said.
“We’re at no stage thinking there’s no way (for other teams) – it’s a very tight field.”
 Telstra Premiership - Round 23: Storm vs Roosters
Was that a penalty try?
Much will be made of the controversial decision to award the Storm a penalty try as the officials deemed Latrell Mitchell had taken Suliasi Vunivalu out in scoring a certain try.
In a closely-contested match between the top two sides, it was a decisive moment as Melbourne established a strong 10-0 lead midway through the first half to set them up for the rest of the game.
It was a decision that Roosters coach Trent Robinson was frank about when he was asked in the post-match press conference.
“There was too much doubt for it to be a penalty try,” Robinson said.
Robinson left it at that but it appeared to be a frustrating ruling for him and his side.
Vunivalu’s mind-bending moment
In one of the most bizarre passages of play in rugby league history that needs to be seen to be believed, Storm winger Vunivalu bobbled a catch off the kick in his own end and secured it in-between his legs before racing upfield and launched himself up in the air at the opposition as if he were playing in the NFL and was evading a would-be tackler.
It led to a penalty against Melbourne as they held a 12-6 lead midway through the second half that turned the momentum against them. The penalty allowed the Bondi side to level the scores on the ensuing set but luckily for the Storm, it didn’t end up costing them the win.
“I’m not quite sure what Suli was trying to do there,” Bellamy said.
Vunivalu was placed on report by the referees but it’s unclear whether he will be punished with suspension.
“I don’t think Suli did any damage so if they charge him, I don’t know,” Bellamy said.
Roosters coach Robinson also didn’t know what to make of the action saying he’ll leave it to the media to comment on the curious action.
Joe the hero
While captain Smith was at his usual best in leading Melbourne home with another classy outing, it was hard-working forward Joe Stimson who will enjoy his well-deserved moment as the match-winning hero after his try gave the Storm the win in the final two minutes.
Stimson was best on ground along Smith as he provided a flawless performance without missing a single tackle in making 29 total tackles in his 68-minute work load.
Smith and Bellamy were quick to praise the fast-rising 21-year-old for his efforts this season.
“Joe Stimson is a tough kid, a really good kid with his training,” Bellamy said. "There’s a whole heap of improvement left in him.”
With several of the Storm’s forward pack including Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean leaving at the end of the season, Stimson will be a vital piece for Melbourne heading into the future.