Cameron Smith has now officially played the most games in NRL history. The Storm skipper ran out for his 356th game and typically played just as good as he has in the rest of them. A game-high 42 tackles and a calmness under pressure perfectly charatcerises why the future immortal has been able to achieve such an incredible milestone. Tough, relentless and above all a supreme leader of men, it is almost impossible to see any other player being able to break the record that Smith today.
With his try in the 50th minute of the game, Billy Slater drew level with Steve Menzies for the second most tries scored in NRL history. Slater read the mind of his winger Josh Addo-Carr who put in a grubber kick that left Slater clean through to ground the ball for what turned out to be the match-winning try. The superstar fullback was electric playing his first final in three years. After all this time sitting out at the business end of the year, it is clear that Slater is a man on a mission in September.
It was the second half completion rate that ultimately went a long way to deciding this game. As Storm went into the sheds at half-time trailing 10-4, they did so on the back of completing just 64 per cent of their sets. The six errors, often at times under no pressure, was a cause of frustration. However to Melbourne’s credit, they responded emphatically. For the next 40 minutes they completed 17 of 19 sets to have the Eels defence on the back foot for much of the second half. It was a terrific response and a sign of the ability of this Storm attack to turn it around when things are not going all their own way.
For Semi Radradra to finish the game with only that many metres is a testament to the defensive work of the Storm right edge. The Fijian may have scored a try after latching onto a simple pass but he was far from his damaging best. Will Chambers showed why he is the best defensive centre in the game while Suliasi Vunivalu proved he was far from just an attacking dynamo, not missing a single tackle for the entire 80 minutes. Radradra ran for 60 metres less than his season average, Storm’s homework clearly paid off.
All the talk leading into this game was around how Parramatta would throw the ball around and leave Storm’s defence off balance. It turned out to be quite the opposite, as it was the men in purple who were instead more than happy to let the ball fly around the park. That was none more evident than in the outrageous sixth tackle play in the 46th minute. It was a play that saw 10 different Storm players touch the ball, across all parts of the field, eventually falling into the hands of Kenny Bromwich to score under the posts to swing the momentum back Melbourne’s way. The daringness in attack may well have caught Parramatta off guard and it seemed to work a treat which we may see more of in a two week’s time.