Stats that Matter - Round 8
You would think on a night that you score 50 points it is your work with the football that would be a standout however on Wednesday night Melbourne proved they are more than just a points scoring machine. Despite cruising at 38-nil at half-time, Melbourne dug in at the defensive end to make 207 tackles in the second half - more than double what they made in the first. That included successfully repelling five consecutive sets on their own line. Such an attitude, despite the score line, will bring just as much satisfaction to Craig Bellamy as the half century his team reached on the other side of the scoreboard.
That first half was pure rugby league perfection as Melbourne Storm put up their highest first half score ever at AAMI Park. 38 points, 67 per cent of possession, 20 of 22 sets completed, 881 metres to 408 and pretty much every other line in the stats column you wanted to look at would have filled you with purple pride. This was the biggest game of the season and when the moment arrived the men in purple had no hesitation in flexing their muscle.
The critics were circling early in the season around the Storm attack, they cannot be heard very loudly now. For the first time since Round 4-6, 2012, Melbourne have now scored 34 points or more points in three consecutive games. After not scoring over 10 points in three of their first five games, the pundits up north were quick to ask the question of whether this team could recapture its sizzle following the departure of several Premiership stars. The last three weeks should put any of those concerns to bed.
It will not be talked about in the headlines tomorrow but the five repeat sets Melbourne repelled on their own line at the start of the second half was arguably their most impressive highlight of the night. The Warriors had just scored their first try in the 44th minute of the game and with a wave of momentum were throwing everything at the Storm defence in search of their second. However the purple wall was going nowhere, making tackle after tackle to repel five consecutive sets from the visitors and send AAMI Park into a deserving frenzy of anticipation.
Number one on his back, number one in our hearts. Billy Slater was awarded the ANZAC Day medal for the first time in his career in a performance that still stood out, even on a night where his team was nearly flawless. The champion laid off an assist, scored one himself and had the 25,000-strong crowd holding their breath in anticipation whenever he touched the football. That is now three consecutive weeks of scintillating rugby league for Slater, no surprise his team's form has come along with it.