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Melbourne have an unrivaled history of playoff success in the NRL era, but their record against the top eight teams this year suggests they won’t go deep into the final series.
The Storm have the worst post-season team record this year among games involving these eight clubs.
They have become the flat bullies of the NRL, as opposed to the ‘flat on the back bully’ that Nelson Asofa-Solomona has become with his cheap shots on Wayde Egan and Joseph Suaalii when they were flat on the back.
Craig Bellamy’s side have won just five of 13 clashes with their fellow runners-up, capped by their 22-14 loss to Parramatta at CommBank Stadium on Thursday, which handed fourth place to the Eels, sending the Storm straight into the half of sudden death. playoff support.
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They average 19.9 points in games against other contenders and 21.1 against.
In games against the last eight this season, they went 10-1 with their only loss against an equally run team coming in Round 16 when they lost 36-30 to Manly.
They averaged 39.8 for and 12.4 against when they faced the teams that ultimately missed the playoffs.
For a team built on consistent excellence, the hot and cold nature of these results is very different from the storm.
Storm’s record against big guns and also rans
|Storm||against the top 8 teams||against the last 8 teams|
Since the 2010 season, when they finished last in their salary cap penalties, this is only the second time they have finished outside the top four after finishing sixth in 2014.
They had secured a top-two finish for the past five seasons, so having to start the final in fifth position is foreign territory.
The Storm have done remarkably well in overcoming the mid-year loss of star full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen as well as earlier blows that ended the season after just one round for Maroons stalwart Christian Welch (Achille) and the winger George Jennings (knee).
Jahrome Hughes, Felise Kaufusi, Xavier Coates, Brandon Smith and Tui Kamikamica have been in and out of training for various reasons, so it’s a testament to Bellamy’s ability that they still managed to finish until the fifth place.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy showed courage after the loss to Parra by saying that while no team had won the title in the bottom half of the final in the NRL era, someone would eventually break that record. “To win the competition you have to win four games in a row, and the last three of them you travel,” Bellamy said. “It’s tough no doubt, but it’s going to get done at some point.”
Second-placed Cronulla’s title credentials also deserve close scrutiny after they went 4-5 in games this season against other teams in the final, which includes two losses to eighth-placed Canberra.
The Cowboys went 5-5 although one of those wins was their round 25 against a badly depleted Penrith team, with two of their other four over the Raiders.
Penrith have won nine of their 13 clashes after nearly conceding last Saturday’s result by resting a dozen top players ahead of the final.
The only other team to win more than they lost against the top eight was Parramatta, who will face the Panthers in their qualifying final, whom they beat twice during the regular season.
How each team in the final faced the first eight opponents
|Crew||against the top 8 teams||Average for||Average against|
In their 11 games against the top eight teams, the Eels have won six despite suffering heavy defeats to North Queensland (35-4 in round 8) and South (26-0 in round 22) along the way.
As they attempt to break the club’s 36-year drought, the Eels will need to upset the Panthers to advance directly to a preliminary final or if they lose they will face the winner of the Storm vs Raiders eliminator.
Canberra and Melbourne split their head-to-head battles with the Storm winning 30-16 at Wagga Wagga in round 5 before the Raiders upset them 20-16 at AAMI Park in round 18 in the match that ended Papenhuyzen’s early season when his kneecap was fractured in a collision with Jack Wighton.
The loser of the Sharks vs Cowboys game will face either the Roosters or the Rabbitohs in the semi-finals.
Cronulla cruised to a 26-12 win over Todd Payten’s side at Townsville in Round 18 in their only meeting of 2022.
For rugby league’s oldest rivals, South Sydney earned early bragging rights over their 1908 foes with a 28-16 third-round triumph, but the Roosters got their revenge last Friday 26-16 to reopen the new Allianz stadium and book it again for the playoff final against the same opposition.