Otago Daily Times
Storm’s title hailed as its greatest
RUGBY LEAGUE NRL grand final
SYDNEY: Craig Bellamy has hailed Melbourne’s 2020 premiership as the finest in the club’s illustrious history after it held off a charging Penrith to win a bizarre NRL grand final 2620.
But just like everything else this year, it did not come easily.
In a nerveracking finish at ANZ Stadium, Penrith came from 26 points down with 28 minutes to play to reduce the margin to six with just three seconds remaining.
With the Storm down to 11 men after Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith were sent to the sin bin, Penrith had one final play to level the scores from the kickoff after a late Nathan Cleary try.
But after they went back and forth across the field, the ball landed in Felise Kaufusi’s hands to wrap up Melbourne’s fourth title and by far its gutsiest.
It brought to an end Penrith’s recordbreaking season, halting its winning streak at 17 and without the major prize.
Melbourne is the most dominant team of the 21st century, but none of its triumphs have had a back story like this one.
The players have not slept in their own beds since June, having been forced into camp firstly in Sydney before settling on the Sunshine
Coast due to the Covid19 outbreak in Victoria.
It is also the club’s first premiership without all of the big three on the park — the exit of Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk was originally expected to spell its demise.
‘‘For what our guys have been through and all their families have been through, I would put it up the top of the grand final wins we had,’’ Bellamy said.
‘‘I always thought 2012 was the special one after what happened in 2010.
‘‘But this year there have been circumstances and situations where I thought some might want to pack up and go home.
‘‘But they all stuck through.’’ Captain Cameron Smith also praised his team’s toughness, as he left his future unknown after scoring his first grand final try on halftime.
‘‘We understood what we had to do and the reasons for it,’’ Smith said.
‘‘We wanted this competition to continue and that’s why we did it.’’
It was just the Panthers’ second loss of the year but they finish with little reward for one of the finest seasons in memory.
‘‘Frustrating game. I still can’t quite explain the game yet,’’ coach Ivan Cleary said. ‘
‘I will need a bit of time for that.
‘‘Apart from the scoreboard I felt like we were going OK.
‘‘The one thing I am so proud of our boys, they could not have tried any harder.
‘‘I would love to have the game again tomorrow.’’ — AAP