Almanac Rugby League – 2019 NRL Preliminary Final: Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm: Too many weapons

Between them, the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have dominated the NRL for the past decade. In that time, their clashes have often been fiercely contested encounters. Last night’s Preliminary Final at the Sydney Cricket Ground was no exception.


It didn’t take long for the fireworks to start – all of twenty seconds, in fact. In the very first tackle, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Sio Siua Taukeiaho lashed out at each other and were promptly sin-binned for ten minutes. That set the tone for a rugged, physical encounter that never really reached any great heights as a spectacle but certainly entertained old school purists who like their games tight and tough. By game’s end, Sydney’s Mitch Aubusson as well as Melbourne’s Ryan Papenhuyzen and Felise Kaufusi were major casualties.


Defence again played a huge part in the style and outcome of this game. It wasn’t pretty, sweeping movements were few and far between, creativity took a back seat and the two teams just went at each other from go to whoa. The usual game-breakers in Luke Keary, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu for the Roosters, and Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and Ryan Papenhuyzen for the Storm were all fairly well contained.


Ultimately, the Sydney Roosters prevailed by 14-6 and always looked the more likely to win. They simply had too many potential strike weapons and, sooner or later, something had to give. Leading 8-6 with just over ten minutes to go, a Melbourne defender slipped, creating a gap for Angus Crichton and then Cooper Cronk to burst downfield. With the defence out of kilter, a quick shift to the right allowed Tedesco to exploit a gap and score to put the game out of Melbourne’s reach. (Don’t believe the far-fetched hype that Tedesco broke the game open with a piece of individual brilliance – his try was the result of a standard shift to the temporarily weak side of the disjointed defence and he had a huge gap to run into. ‘Teddy’ is a great player but some of the carry-on about him is over the top and does so-called journalists/commentators no favours.)


The Roosters competed as a team and it’s difficult to single out individuals in last night’s effort. Let’s just say that Boyd Cordner is an inspirational captain and Trent Robinson is an exceptional coach. Their very strong defence coupled with so many attacking options make the Roosters a formidable unit. They pushed the edges with their physicality with Tetevano and Keary likely to come under scrutiny after last night. It is their full ‘team in motion’ in attacking positions that creates a nightmare for their opposition. Just how does a defence cover all of those potential strike points? Ricky Stuart and his Raiders have a week to work that out.


Melbourne will be disappointed that they have again been unable to unravel the Roosters in a finals match. The aggression of the Roosters flustered them and they lacked cohesion in attack. Munster was unable to find space to weave his magic and Addo-Carr was reduced to trying to carry the ball from deep in his own half. Ryan Papenhuyzen stood out as their best attacking weapon and Brandon Smith added energy and mongrel when he came on. Jahrome Hughes did well behind a nullified pack with darting runs and some deft kicking. Craig Bellamy has a task on his hands to find the keys to unlock both Melbourne’s recent poor run in finals and Sydney’s defensive fortress.


So on we go to Sunday’s Grand Final. The Roosters will be very firm favourites, and deservedly so. The Raiders have worked out how to beat the Storm – can they do the same with the Roosters?


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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