Melbourne Storm wins NRL grand final 23-16 over Parramatta Eels
- From: Herald Sun
- October 04, 2009
THE best of the decade or one of the greatest teams ever - call Melbourne Storm what you will but call them 2009 NRL premiers.
On their fourth successive trip to the premiership well the superstar-laden outfit filled their buckets to the brim with a 23-16 win over Parramatta.
It took a Greg Inglis field goal in the dying stages of an 80-minute slugfest to do it, but Melbourne did it.
Ryan Hoffman, Adam Blair, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater scored tries and ... won the Clive Churchill medal for best on ground in an all-round, 80-minute effort that said "we will not be denied again".
Melbourne had to play for the full 80 too. Storm was 10 points up with 10 minutes to go before a rampagning Fuifui Moimoi carried three Strom defenders over the line to keep what looked like fading hopes for his team alive.
And then when Billy Slater grassed a massive, rain-making bomb from Jarryd Haybe who hadn't had a good kick all day, the Eels were in full flight 20m out from their try line.
But then the Storm full-back made up for it with a run that got his team out of the danger zone, and then drew a penalty from Moimoi.
Storm charged up the field in to field-goal range and Inglis, with the second-ever field goal of his career, gave Melbourne a seven-point lead, and less than three minutes remaining.
It was a professional performance from an outfit that knows nothing else and will now and forever be known as big-game performers.
The focus was clear in the eyes of everyone during the national anthem as well as the minute's silence for victims of the Samoan tsunami.
Storm's most affected player, Jeff Lima stood alone in front of his arm-in-arm teammates during that reflective 60 seconds and his unmoving eyes told the story of desire for a performance to remember.
Less than five minutes after Storm skipper Cam Smith, growling with intensity, kicked off Storm had scored through Ryan Hoffman.
The back-rower, also fired up having missed last year's losing decider, powered on to a Brett Finch pass and beat two Parramatta tacklers with ease to land a swag of big bets on him as first-try scorer.
It immediately put the already nervous Eels on the back foot and for the next 10 minutes they failed to make any real ground with the football.
Parramatta full-back Jarryd Hayne, carrying the burden of expectation, wasn't able to generate any pressure with his set-ending kicks, which Billy Slater was continually returning with interest.
The big hits were happening all over the field, with Eels big man Fuifui Moimoi crashing in to Storm five-eight, and his former Parra teammate Brett Finch.
But the veteran was holding strong in defence, getting up time and again to make tackle after tackle at the ruck.
Moimoi then sent a shudder through Storm fans with a swinging arm to the head of Storm tackling machine Dallas Johnson that rocked him.
He got up and continued to make tackles and carry the ball when called upon but was clearly not 100 per cent copus.
Slowly but surely the Eels were finding their feet in attack and started to pressure the corners with kicks, particularly towards diminutive Storm winger Steve Turner.
But he held firm in the face of swarming Eels and was doing his best work with quick carries out of dummy-half that helped release defensive pressure on his team.
Hayne was dancing with the ball in hand, but the Storm boys would not be distracted by his fleet red feet and he couldnt find the room he needs to create the special things he can do.
Storm was continuing to be clinical but not finishing off sets as it would have liked, with kicks that were neither pointed nor impressive.
Luckily the defence was not showing any such weaknesses because the Eels continued to come.
After making more metres Storm again broke the defensive line, this time through half-back Cooper Cronk who had been wanting to take on the line.
He accepted a pass from Finch, pretended to of-load to a rushing Slater and instead charged through a couple of would-be tacklers.
As he paced to the line he was joined on his outside by Blair who said thank you very much and galloped the final 15m to score.
The Eels could not get in to dangerous attacking territory and when they did had no joy and at half-time had a duck egg in their points column.
For a team that loves its off-loads the Eels were either too nervous to throw them or unable because of Storm's tackling and the count was lower than they needed to win.
The blue-and-gold army suddenly erupted when enigmatic winger Eric Grothe scored five minutes in to the second half after a series of Eels near missed.
Buy they were silenced again just minutes later when Greg Inglis scored under the posts for Storm after the Eels defenders just stared at a Cooper Cronk bomb.
None of them played at it, Inglis caught it and the Storm lead was 10 again. That became 16 and the nails were being organised for the Eels coffin when Slater finished off a magical piece of Melbourne work to score his first try for the game.
After his forwards took a series of crunching hits - most from Moimoi who wasnt having the impact he would have liked - Storm advanced the ball within scoring range where skipper Cam Smith fed Cronk who fed Blair who broke the line and found a rampaging Slater who scored.
There was still 25 minutes to go but Storm was not in the mood for a lapse.
Eels winger Luke Burt looked to have made a break down the right side line only for his opposition number Steve Turner to tackle him in to touch.
As darkness descended on ANZ Stadium, the Eels scored again when Reddy launched himself to catch a Robson kick but still they were 10 points adrift, and only 10 minutes left.
But they kept coming and Moimoi, fresh off the bench, had the excat impact he was after by charging from 30m out and carrying three Storm defenders to the line to score.
It was the run of a raging bull but when Luke Burt missed the sideline conversion the Eels needed to score twice to win.
Then up-stepped Inglis whose boot was precise and made Melborne premiers, again.
Melbourne Storm 23
Tries: Hoffman, Blair, Inglis, Slater
Goals: Smith (3) Inglis (FG)
Parramatta Eels 16
Tries: Grothe, Reddy, Moimoi
Goals: Burt (2)
Clive Churchill Medallist: Billy Slater
Crowd: 82,538 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
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