Saturday’s matches for round 11 wraps up with the Storm returning to their home surroundings in Melbourne, to play host to the Sea Eagles. Both teams are coming off victories, and are keen to consolidate on their last start victories.
The Storm bounced back from their disappointing loss to the Dragons a fortnight ago, by accounting for the Titans, 28-14, in the first of the double-header of matches to be played at Suncorp Stadium last week. However, the victory has come at a cost, with inspirational skipper, Cameron Smith, accepting a one-match suspension for his wishbone tackle on former Storm teammate and Titans forward, Kevin Proctor.
The Sea Eagles bounced back with a surprise 38-24 victory over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, in the second of the double-header of matches at Lang Park. In doing so, the men from the northern beaches arrested a five-match losing streak, dating back to round 5. The held a slender 18-14 advantage at the break and would consolidate on their lead to deservedly leave the Cauldron with the competition points, punishing the flat Broncos in the process.
There has been a fair amount of history between these two sides, and they have a chance to renew their rivalry, as they lock horns on Saturday evening. The Storm will head into this match without the leadership of the evergreen Smith, who will be serving his suspension. The Sea Eagles will be looking to consolidate on their shock victory and will be keen to rip into their Victorian counterparts.
2017 - Round 21 - Melbourne Storm 40 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 6 at AAMI Park.
2017 - Round 7 - Melbourne Storm 30 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 26 at Lottoland.
2016 - Round 24 - Melbourne Storm 38 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 at Lottoland.
2015 - Round 8 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12 def. Melbourne Storm 10 at AAMI Park.
2015 - Round 2 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 24 def. Melbourne Storm 22 at Lottoland.
The most recent encounters between these two combatants sees the Storm winning three out of the five. Those two losses in 2015 were quite surprising, when you consider that the Storm were consistently in and around the top 4 during that season, while the Sea Eagles continuously hovered around the bottom half of the ladder. In terms of overall head-to-head meetings between the two sides, it is relatively even, with the Storm winning 18 of their contests with the Sea Eagles, while the men from the northern beaches have won 13 of their matches with the Victorians, followed by a lone drawn match in 2013.
Historically, there has been an intense rivalry between the two, particularly between 2007 and 2013, where both teams were at the height of their powers. Moreover, each side has faced the other in the grand final twice (2007 and 2008), with blowout scorelines for each side. The Storm thrashed the Sea Eagles 34-8 in the 2017 decider (only to be stripped of the title due to salary cap breaches), while the men from the northern beaches exacted revenge on their nemesis the following year’s decider, to the tune of 40-0. The rivalry had been flamed when the Storm was found to be cheating the salary cap.
From 2000 to 2002, during the years of the ill-fated joint venture of the Northern Eagles, the ledger with the Storm reads three victories to the Storm and two to the then joint venture club.
|Melbourne Storm||Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles|
|1||Billy Slater||Tom Trbojevic|
|2||Suliasi Vunivalu||Matthew Wright|
|3||Will Chambers||Moses Suli|
|4||Curtis Scott||Brian Kelly|
|5||Josh Addo-Carr||Akuila Uate|
|6||Cameron Munster||Dylan Walker|
|7||Ryley Jacks||Daly Cherry-Evans|
|8||Christian Welch||Addin Fonua-Blake|
|9||Brandon Smith||Apisai Koroisau|
|10||Nelson Asofa-Solomona||Marty Taupau|
|11||Felise Kaufusi||Joel Thompson|
|12||Ryan Hoffman||Shaun Lane|
|13||Dale Finucane||Jake Trbojevic|
|14||Tim Glasby||Trent Hodkinson|
|15||Kenny Bromwich||Frank Winterstein|
|16||Joe Stimson||Lloyd Perrett|
|17||Jahrome Hughes||Toafofoa Sipley|
|18||Patrick Kaufusi||Tom Wright|
|19||Brodie Croft||Lewis Brown|
|20||Harry Grant||Jorge Taufua|
|21||Justin Olam||Tevita Funa|
The facts that matter
The victory last week over the Titans came about on the back of accumulating in excess of 1500 metres. It was far from their most convincing performance, as the Titans were quite brave, to lead 14-8 at the break, having trailed 8-0 after 15 minutes. The defending premiers were uncharacteristically clunky in attack, as emphasised by the normally reliable Smith throwing a forward pass from dummy half. However, they were able to get their act together from the 50th minute, scoring 20 unanswered points en route to victory, reminding us the reason for being the defending premiers.
Despite not being anywhere near their best over the last fortnight, the fact is the Storm’s attack is still very potent, ranked second behind only the Dragons. Moreover, they have not lost too much in defence, as they are ranked fourth in the NRL, behind the Dragons, Roosters and Tigers. With numbers such as 254 points scored and 159 points conceded, the reigning premiers have a points differential of 95, which is inferior to only the ladder-leading Dragons, who are on a points differential of 128. Moreover, they have won three of their four matches at home, with their other home game being based in Brisbane last week, as part of the double-header of matches at Lang Park.
In all their matches in Melbourne against the Sea Eagles (as well as the Northern Eagles between 2000 and 2002), they have won all but four of their home matches, with one of these resulting in a draw in 2013. However, one key stat that cannot be ignored is the fact that the Storm’s record without Smith is not particularly impressive.
Many thought the Sea Eagles were taking a risk by moving their home game against the Broncos to be held in Brisbane, which is Broncos territory. However, it was a gamble which they won out, having stunned their opponents, en route to a 38-24 victory. The men from the northern beaches achieved victory, courtesy of smashing their opponents in the yardage department, accumulating 1662 metres to their opponents’ 1332. In addition, they kept the Broncos’ defence guessing, offloading 13 times. In defence, they only missed 24 tackles to a whopping 48 tackles by the Broncos, while committing only 8 errors for the match.
That victory over the Broncos saw the men from the peninsula leapfrog the Bulldogs and Cowboys into 12th spot. Despite the impressive victory, their stats remain concerning. Although they are ranked sixth in attack, having scored 222 points, they are ranked 14th in defence, having conceded 247 points thus far. Only the Titans and the Knights are ranked lower, regarding defence. Even more concerning is that the Sea Eagles have not won a match away from home this season, thereby being stranded on a 0-5 away record to start the season. Only the bottom-placed Eels have an inferior away record, with six losses and no victories. This is quite a contrast to this time last year, where the Sea Eagles began 2017 to be almost unbeatable away from home. Unfortunately, they have been unable to replicate their away form this season.
Moreover, they have a poor record against the Storm in Melbourne, having returned to Sydney’s northern beaches with the competition points on three occasions, while escaping with a share of the spoils in 2013. This is inclusive of the period where the Sea Eagles were part of the failed Northern Eagles experiment.
With both teams having returned to the winners’ circle last week, you can be certain that both will be eager to consolidate on their respective last start victories. The Storm will be keen to prove there is life after Cameron Smith after the Storm skipper was suspended for this match. There is minimal doubt that Smith will be hurting at having to sit this match out. For the Sea Eagles, not only will they be keen to consolidate on their recent victory, they will also be keen to do a number of things: claim another major scalp in the Storm, claim a rare win in Melbourne, improve their ladder position, and take advantage of their opponents who are without their captain for this match.
As such, this writer suspects that the Sea Eagles will be ripping into the Storm, in an attempt to return to the northern beaches with two valuable competition points. However, despite the conspicuous absence of Smith and their poor record without him, it’s difficult to see the Storm slipping up at home, as there are enough big guns in their squad to cover for Smith’s absence. It’s also difficult to ignore the Sea Eagles’ poor record in Melbourne, and it does not look like ending too soon. Storm by 6.
Who claims the two vital competition points when the Storm host the Sea Eagles on Saturday night? Let us know in the comments and poll below.