19 wins in a row. Tied for the record with the famous 1975 Easts side. For the first time since Round 3, the Melbourne Storm lose. The Storm remain top of the ladder and safely in the Top Four. However, after defeat to the Parramatta Eels on Saturday, Melbourne’s relentless momentum has finally been stopped.
Last Time Out
The Eels beat the Storm back in Round 2, one of only two other defeats for Melbourne in 2021. A low-scoring but thrilling encounter, it was only a 76th minute Maika Sivo try that separated the sides and gave Parra a 16-12 win. Since then the two clubs have had vastly different fortunes. For Melbourne it was the first defeat of the season, another would follow to Premiers rivals Penrith the week after. Since then? Perfection. The Eels won 9 of their first 10 but have since been inconsistent. Saturday’s win came off the back of just one win in their last five games. Just two weeks prior they had looked lost after conceding 56 points to Manly. Some questioned coach Brad Arthur’s future with the club.
Speaking after the game on Saturday, Arthur was glowing with praise with how his side approached the game, “I’d seen it at the start of the week, we had an intensity about what we did, we had a level of focus, and then I saw it when we got here tonight…I couldn’t guarantee we’d get the result, but I was confident in the style of performance we’d put out there.” Straight from the off this was apparent. Melbourne were never allowed to settle, and Parramatta’s physical edge looked to have returned. Veteran winger Blake Ferguson had taken a lot of criticism for the weakness of the Eels’ right edge. He returned in style, scoring two tries. Half-back Mitchell Moses shone, assisting one of Ferguson’s tries and leading the attack with captain Clint Gutherson. Arthur singled Moses out for praise post-match; “he produced in one of the big games for us. I was super proud of him and so happy for him that he was able to play like that.”
Melbourne Storm lose – Finals Fallout
For Melbourne, the defeat may have ramifications going into the finals. Their top try scorer Josh Addo-Carr went off with a hamstring injury early in the second half. Their star dummy halves were both placed on report: Brandon Smith for a high tackle, and Harry Grant for a hip drop. In addition, Jesse Bromwich was also put on report for a crusher tackle. Perhaps the bigger issue is that Parramatta showed the other finals contenders how to hurt Melbourne. For a number of weeks, it had looked as though the reigning champions would stroll to a second consecutive Premiership. With the Panthers welcoming star men back and the Rabbitohs attack looking hotter than ever (despite Latrell Mitchell being ruled out for the rest of the season), there now looks to be an open competition. Craig Bellamy was understandably unhappy after the defeat, stating “we didn’t give a yelp tonight.” Brandon Smith spoke to Fox League after the game, “I hope he’s wearing a mask because it will be raining spit in there, I know that for sure. He sprayed the F out of us at half time and I can only imagine what’s about to come down,” he joked.
With this win, Parramatta have a shot at finishing in the top four with one regular game left. They must beat Western Sydney rivals Penrith and hope Manly do not beat the North Queensland Cowboys. Even if they don’t end up in the top four, the momentum gained from beating the best side in the competition will serve them well going into week one of the finals.
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