The grand final rematch was a good progress report for each of Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm. Here’s our review.
Last year, the two teams met in the grand final for what looked to be one of the exciting finals match ups in recent times.
Regardless of the salary cap saga that saw two premierships taken away from Melbourne, the Storm have been the benchmark team of the NRL for half a decade. Under coach Craig Bellamy, the hard working Storm have become the pinnacle of discipline.
The big three – Copper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, have formed a partnership of incredible class and skill.
The Bulldogs, under former Manly coach Des Hasler, have built on the structured play and disciplined defence typical of the team, and added their own exciting attack through stars Kristian Inu and Ben Barba.
Unfortunately the final did not live up to the expectation and the Storm ran away with the match, ending an exciting run to the finals for the Bulldogs.
This season the grand final rematch saw a number of star players missing for the Bulldogs including forwards Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano. Most notable however, was the absence of star fullback Ben Barba, who was crucial to the Canterbury attack last season.
Melbourne once again displayed their carefully honed set plays to deadly effect, spreading the ball wide off the penalty scrum and offloading to superstar Billy Slater.
However the match was not all Melbourne’s way, with some good signs for the Bulldogs. Ben Barba may be missing but replacement Drury Low was exceptional both in defence and offence. The 22-year-old looked composed and shut down his star studded opposition fullback on more than one occasion.
While the result might have gone to Melbourne, the Bulldogs looked much more dangerous this time round. Melbourne were forced to scramble in defence as the Bulldogs put pressure on their defence. If Canterbury had been able to capitalise on the field position they held for much of the first half Melbourne would have been chasing in the second half.
If the Bulldogs can welcome back some of their key players before the two teams face off again later this season, they could very well be the ones taking home the silverware.