Sydney Roosters 21 defeated Melbourne Storm 6
The Sydney Roosters have won the Provan-Summons Trophy completely dominating the Melbourne Storm winning 21-6 after blasting out of the blocks producing an almost perfect first half which ended with the Chooks holding an impregnable 18-0 lead blowing the Storm away with a lethal mix of brutal defence, exquisite attack hitting the Storm at express pace and a tactical masterclass from coach Trent Robinson delivered with precision magnificently by the entire squad. It was a classic case of one side embracing the spotlight as the other were deer caught in the headlights, the Roosters executing their best game of the season on the biggest stage while the Storm, predicted to match that standard, having a collective shocker failing to handle the occasion, credit the Tricolours who applied immense pressure putting their foot on the Storm’s throat from the opening whistle and never taking it off. In saluting the bravery of Cooper Cronk here are the Top 7 talking points from an unexpected one sided contest, yes I know Cronk wore a different jersey in the Grand Final but I’m buggered if I’m doing 23!
1. Super Cooper
The Roosters produced the best sting since The Usual Suspects as Cooper Cronk aka Keyser Soze was announced a starter just under an hour before kickoff in jersey 23 after being written off all week with what the Roosters told the world was a severe rotator cuff injury but in reality was a broken scapula. Robbo rolled the dice and the Roosters gamble on playing their star recruit with one crook wing paid off as Cronk, King of the chicken Coop, steered the ship through what could have been stormy waters smoothly - the Roosters are Premiers. Cronk displayed remarkable courage to battle through 78 minutes the Roosters tactics were brilliant hiding Cronk so well – massive credit to Mitch Aubusson the Bondi bodyguard - he was only belted twice kicking and forced to make just 8 tackles as Cronk played on-field coach just directing his charges around the paddock. Like the Emmy award winning Seinfeld, Cronk was brilliant starring in the Big Show while statistically doing nothing! The Roosters basically defeated the Storm with 12 players. Cronk was brought to the club on a two year deal to bring the Roosters the premiership they craved and kept falling short for. He did it in one – mission accomplished!
2. Cool Hand Luke
With Cronk busted, Luke Keary knew he had to take control and oh boy did he ever, the Roosters five-eighth produced a pearler of a match breaking the Storm in an opening stanza of pure perfection setting up the opening try with a beautiful loop for Toops as Daniel Tupou profited from Keary’s vision. His kicking game was immaculate, defence as rock solid as the bloke next to him and he stood tallest in a side that didn’t feature an ordinary performance, every Chook performed their job to the best of their ability. This was a confident Keary at his peak. All Roosters fans should thank Russell Crowe for booting Keary out the back door at the Bunnies after their infamous blow up. On Crowe’s command Keary was given the flick and in classic Roosters recruitment the Chooks picked up a discard turning it into an ace. Keary has now won premierships with both clubs and was a deserved winner of the Clive Churchill Medal just ahead of Roosters co-captain Jake Friend, who played his best game of the season by a long shot.
3. Latrell Lights It Up
Will Chambers must wake up in the middle of the night with soaked sheets every time he opposes Latrell Mitchell and I’m not certain it’s all sweat. Chambers was owned yet again by the Roosters lethal left centre, Mitchell’s dominance and stellar season rewarded with a premiership ring, Blues Origin victory and now Kangaroo selection. How he didn’t collect the Dally M centre of the year was astounding! Mitchell swatted Chambers aside in the 14th minute to bust the game wide open scoring the Roosters 2nd try and asserted his brutal supremacy over Chambers after smashing him over the touchline, Latrell bundled Chambers into the advertising hoarding towering over his vanquished opponent like a colossus. Chambers position in the Maroons Origin side must be in doubt as Mitchell has him mentally shot, Latrell confirming his status as a superstar, let’s face it anyone known by their first name must be and is now the pre-eminent centre in the game.
4. See Ya Slater, Billy
It wasn’t the fairy tale finish for Billy Slater as the Storm’s dreams of sending one of their favourite son’s out with another premiership ring after a back to back title attack were obliterated by the Bondi Boys blitz. Slater, controversially escaping an alleged shoulder charge by the NRL judiciary to be free to play, was tried in the public domain by an albeit tad biased 70,000 Rooster Boosters who left no one in any doubt what they thought of that verdict. Booed from his opening touch then jeered relentlessly for the following 80 minutes it was a rough end to his brilliant career.
Fans pay for the right to express themselves but I don’t like booing and I especially don’t condone it post-game, Roosters fans showed zero respect during the presentation souring the final moment of a champion. No one tried harder than Slater but behind a well beaten pack, he and fellow legend Cameron Smith were pushing you know what uphill into a stiff breeze. Slater leaves behind a magnificent lasting legacy to his club and the game itself, at least he got to finish it on the paddock and not driven around in a ute in the pregame honour to this season’s retirees.
5. Munster Madness
Cameron Munster was one of the major keys to a Melbourne victory but he had a night to forget turning in an absolute shocker. As the Storm struggled to contain the rampant Roosters, Munster held down Jake Friend after a turnover when the Storm were shot earning himself a deserved stint in the sin bin, a period where the Roosters turned a solid 12-0 lead into, with their red, white and blue brick wall and an off-Storm, a unassailable 18-0 lead at oranges. To Munster’s credit he looked the Storm’s most likely game changer and was denied a try by a correct obstruction call and lost the ball as the impressive Joseph Manu raked Munster’s arm causing him to lose the ball and with it went any hope of the Storm mounting a miraculous comeback. Munster’s night went bad to worse ending in shame as in pure frustration he kicked Manu in the back of the head and finished the game cooling his heels binned for a second occasion, lucky he wasn’t sent off. A brilliant player he’ll rebound and the fire burning may bring the best out of him and the Storm in 2019.
6. The Vanquished
It was an uncharacteristically error-prone performance from the Storm, but was it? The 2018 version was a far less regimented side than previous years the looser off the cuff attack brought more second phase play but an average completion rate for the season. What shocked was the failure to rise for the Grand Final. Melbourne always pride themselves on producing when it matters most, but the machine spluttered, and Craig Bellamy would have felt helpless in the coaching box watching the horror show unfold. The future looks bright though, Slater is gone and potentially Cameron Smith but there is talent to burn in the club. The Storm is a remarkable club and will be in the mix again next year, but it is a huge ask recovering from the loss of a legend like Slater, and to appear in four Grand Finals in a row would be an exceptional achievement. The transition of the legends is a massive challenge for Bellyache but one he’ll succeed at.
7. The Victors
The Roosters were sensational, in an expected tight dour contest, tactically supreme they shocked the Storm hitting them hard with fast ball movement, suffocating tackling, took every chance on offer and were calm, composed and clinical – everything we expected of the Storm! Minor Premiers and now Premiers, what a year for the Roosters and the future looks very bright only losing Blake Ferguson (Eels) and Ryan Matterson (Tigers) from the title winning squad. The Roosters were a slow burn to begin 2018 taking their time to get their combinations but their steely defence was always on show, their pack rising when questioned. They went up a notch leading into the finals and ratcheted up for the final two matches producing tremendous rugby league culminating in a first half as good as we’ve seen in a Grand Final for a very long time. As the Storm have shown, losing two of the past three Grand Finals, the effort and luck required to win consecutive titles is extreme but don’t discount the Roosters sending Cooper Cronk out a premiership winner, they’ll start 2019 as the bookmakers favourites.