After an uncharacteristically inconsistent start to the season, the Melbourne Storm are back. They thrashed the New Zealand Warriors yesterday 50 points to 10 to bring the Auckland side back to earth after an outstanding start to the season. Before that game St George and the Roosters played out their traditional Anzac Day clash, with the Dragons winning comfortably 24-8.
It was only last Friday that the Warriors ended St George’s unbeaten run in 2018, but it is clear which team recovered better. The Dragons coaching staff would have had one eye on the Anzac clash against their traditional rivals last weekend. The Warriors, on the other hand, threw everything they had at St George – and it showed yesterday.
The Storm were always going to stutter at the start of this season – after all, they lost one of the best halves of the current generation in the off season. They have now clicked into gear, scoring an average of 41 points over their last three matches. Billy Slater is in fine form, hated by opposition players and fans for his brilliance and gamesmanship (which is a nice word for being a grub) in equal measure.
As important as their attacking renaissance is the defensive grit being shown by the Storm. While they struggled to adapt to new interpretations of the rules early in 2018, which banned their characteristic wrestling tactics, they are now proving that they can defend within the rules this year. Holding a Warriors team full of offensive firepower to 10 points is a huge testament to the defensive ability of the Melbourne Storm.
The other Anzac clash was less of a surprise. The Roosters are expected to be there at the pointy end of this season, but right now St George are close to unstoppable. The Dragons forwards dominated their smaller opponents, while Gareth Widdop gave Cooper Cronk a lesson in playmaking and game management. That said, halves do have a much easier life behind a dominant forward pack.
The only one of the Rooster’s high profile recruits to stand up in this game was James Tedesco. “Teddy” was safe under the high ball all game, and continually created chances with half breaks that his teammates were unable to capitalise on. So far this year he has looked much better value for money than Cronk.
The Dragons and Storm will meet each other next week in a tantalising clash. They are the two best teams at the moment, and the game will establish which one is the side to beat this year.