Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm
Sunday, 30 September, 7:20pm
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Two of the most successful sides of the modern era clash in the 2018 NRL Grand Final when the Sydney Roosters play the Melbourne Storm on Sunday night. The Roosters finished the season with the minor premiership, as the decision to sign Cooper Cronk in favour of club stalwart Mitchell Pearce paid immediate dividends for the Chooks. The half back is in serious doubt for Sunday’s decider as he battles a rotator cuff injury, with his status up in the air until kick-off.
It is Cronk’s old club the Melbourne Storm who are the Roosters’ opponents in the Grand Final. Melbourne has played three different players at the half back position this season, before finally settling on Brodie Croft during the latter part of the year. They have been once again led by the dazzling play of veterans Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, with five-eighth Cameron Munster taking on a greater role in playmaking duties in 2018.
The Roosters and Storm both enjoyed wins in the first week of the finals and progressed to host preliminary finals that were hotly contested. The Roosters prevailed 12-4 against South Sydney and demonstrated why they are the best defensive team in the competition. The Chooks restricted the Bunnies to just four points and their first tryless game of the season
Melbourne’s forwards laid the platform for their backs to deliver as they piled on 20 unanswered points in the first half against Cronulla to win 22-6. The Storm owned a poor record against the Sharks in recent times and won their first game against Cronulla at AAMI Park in more than two seasons.
These sides clashed just once this season and it was in round 16 at the Adelaide Oval. On that night a long Cameron Smith field goal in the 79th minute was all that split the two teams, as Melbourne prevailed 9-8.
In their past four meetings, the margin of victory between these two sides has been six points or less, with a field goal scored in each of those matches
Stats That Matter
- The 2018 NRL Grand Final features the two best defensive teams in the league. The Roosters have conceded just 377 points this season, while Melbourne have let in 397 points.
- The Roosters have been the best team against the spread in 2018, covering 15 times during the home and away season and covering both finals games. They are 1.5-point underdogs in the Grand Final.
- The under is 5-3 in the past eight meetings between these two sides, with the Roosters winning only two of those fixtures.
- Latrell Mitchell is among the leading point scorers in the competition with 236 points. He missed last weekend’s preliminary final win against the Bunnies and the Roosters missed all four kicks without their first choice goal kicker.
- In the past two seasons, the Storm have played only two games at ANZ Stadium, including the 2017 NRL Grand Final. They are 1-1 straight up and against the spread.
- The Roosters are 6-2 straight up and 5-3 against the spread at ANZ Stadium since 2017.
The status of Cooper Cronk will remain unknown until team sheets are named, but the Wolf suspects he won’t feature in this one. Souths weren’t clever enough to exploit an injury half back, but you can guarantee that Storm coach Craig Bellamy will be putting together a few plays on the training paddock to target Cronk should he line up. The return of Dylan Napa and Latrell Mitchell is timely for the Chooks, who need another dimension to their attack other than high bombs to wingers Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell.
The Storm have a wealth of representative and Grand Final experience in their side and Brodie Croft has come along in leaps and bounds in recent times. They are an electric side with ball in hand and will have too many weapons for the Roosters to curtail for the full 80 minutes.
How It Shapes Up
Melbourne by 6.
Best: Melbourne 1-12 ($2.75)
Value: Melbourne 1-10 ($3.40)
First Tryscorer: Curtis Scott ($17)