The 2018 Telstra Premiership Grand Final pits the top two teams of the season against each other but there is only so much that can be read into their one and only meeting so far this year.
The Storm got away with a 9-8 win in Adelaide back in round 16 but it was a surprisingly scrappy and low-quality game given the standing of each side, riddled with errors and penalties and with both teams missing plenty of first-choice stars.
The game was in between Origin II and III and while rep players were available (James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr and Cameron Munster all played) there was a host of absentees.
For the Roosters, Joey Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner, Mitch Aubusson and Ryan Matterson were out. For the Storm, Jesse Bromwich, Dale Finucane, Felise Kaufusi and Brodie Croft (who was available but not selected) will strengthen the line-up this weekend compared to that round 16 side.
Goal-kicking (and field goal success) proves the difference
The two side's relative success converting goals – and field goal chances – ended up being the difference in the 9-8 result. The game was one try apiece with both tries converted. Beyond that, Cameron Smith booted his only penalty chance while Latrell Mitchell went one from three when the Roosters opted for a shot at two.
Cameron Munster and Cooper Cronk each went zero from two with their attempts to pot a one-pointer; it was left to the ultimate ice-man in Cameron Smith to decide the game in the dying moments with just the fourth field goal of his career.
Mitchell has been a big improver with his kicking this year and the conversion he nailed in that game from out wide in the rain was tough, but he was left to rue two simple missed penalty shots. The first, just after half-time, wasn't directly in front but it was very get-able. However a 67th-minute shank that clattered off the upright from straight in front proved very costly.
There is no such thing as an easy field goal, however, with defences almost always racing up and the angle rarely ideal. Both of Cronk's were charged down and he is long odds of even taking the field next Sunday. Of Munster's two misses, one was charged down but the other was, by field goal standards, fairly gettable.
But having Munster (who has kicked two game-winning field goals this season, including one already this finals series) and Smith in the side will be a huge advantage if it does come down to a field goal shoot-out. Meanwhile Luke Keary and Jake Friend each have one career field goal but Cronk is the only Rooster to have potted a one-pointer in 2018.
Sydney Roosters top 5 plays of the year
An error-strewn game but Storm had the better of the numbers
The Roosters really should have won, had either of their penalty goal misses gone through, but the Storm edged the stats otherwise according to NRL.com Stats.
Possession (51-49), run metres (1516 to 1335), busts (33-29), average set distance (36.1 metres to 35.1 metres) and forced drop outs (two to none) all went the way of the Storm on the night. They had a better tackle percentage (91.7% to 87.9%) although they also had to make quite a few more (341-305).
With both teams completing in the 70s (Roosters 74%, Storm 71%), ball handling was nothing for either to be proud of but Melbourne's 14 errors against 10 for the Roosters put them under plenty of pressure. The Roosters conceded one extra penalty (10-9) and also had to deal with two HIAs and a sin bin.
The HIAs were both incurred by Jake Friend and the second one came in the final minute. Radley was binned about 10 minutes after half time and it eventually proved critical. The Roosters soaked up a mountain of pressure while he was off before eventually being cracked by Nelson Asofa-Solomona for the Storm's only try of the game just moments before a shattered Radley returned to the field.
Melbourne Storm top 5 plays of the year
Home city advantage for the Roosters?
ANZ Stadium isn't the Roosters' home ground but it's in their home town and they have a good record there.
The Tricolours have won their past three visits there this year, beating the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Eels since an early-season loss to Wests Tigers. All up they have eight wins from their past 10 games there. They haven't played a final at the venue since a 2014 preliminary final loss the Rabbitohs; the game before that was the 2013 grand final win over Manly.
The Storm enjoy a good record over the Roosters, with five wins from the past six games. Two of those games were in Melbourne, two in Adelaide and two in Sydney.
At ANZ Stadium the Storm have just two wins from their past six games. Amazingly those six results stretch back to 2013 with the Storm infrequent visitors to the most frequently-used venue in Sydney.
Their one visit this year was a 30-20 loss to the Rabbitohs in round 21. The game before that was the grand final win over the Cowboys last year. That was their only match at the ground last year – their previous visit was the 2016 grand final loss to the Sharks. But with last year's decider still fresh in plenty of Melbourne minds there will be no trepidation about the venue on Sunday.
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