Cameron Smith offloads a pass during Saturday’s win over Parramatta.
Cameron Smith offloads a pass during Saturday’s win over Parramatta.

One slight stuff up and Cameron Smith is gone

Melbourne Storm have chosen to walk the suspension tightrope with Cameron Smith.

The Storm skipper has accepted the early guilty plea and will carry 75 carry over points into the sudden death finals.

One slight misdemeanour and he's gone.

The Storm captain was charged with a grade one dangerous throw during his side's 36-24 victory over Paramatta and will carry over 75 penalty points into the preliminary final.

He was cited for a 48th-minute tackle on Dylan Brown, with the dangerous throw sanction attracting 100 demerit points.

Cameron Smith puts the clamps on Eels playmaker Dylan Brown.
Cameron Smith puts the clamps on Eels playmaker Dylan Brown.

Smith had the penalty reduced by 25 per cent by pleading guilty.

However, that leaves him in danger of missing the NRL decider if the Storm progresses should he incur the wrath of the NRL judiciary again.

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Cameron Smith offloads a pass during Saturday’s win over Parramatta.
Cameron Smith offloads a pass during Saturday’s win over Parramatta.

STORM SWEATS ON MUNSTER KNEE AFTER PAINFUL BLOW

Ryan Papenhuyzen's masterclass was overshadowed by the pain of Cameron Munster's latest knee breakdown on a bittersweet night for the mighty Melbourne Storm.

Flying fullback Papenhuyzen produced the greatest game of his career as the Storm qualified for their sixth consecutive preliminary final with a 36-24 disposal of the Eels in the qualifying final at Suncorp Stadium.

But the joy of Papenhuyzen's magic act was tempered by the sight of Munster limping off in the 70th minute with his third knee injury of the season.

Cameron Munster could be in some doubt for the Storm's Grand Final qualifier
Cameron Munster could be in some doubt for the Storm's Grand Final qualifier

The Queensland Origin ace was crunched in a two-man tackle, then grabbed at his knee and hobbled off, throwing his mouthguard into the air in disgust.

But Munster is confident he will be fit for the Storm's next showdown at Suncorp in a fortnight against the winner of the Roosters-Raiders sudden-death clash.

"I will do everything I can to be fit, at this stage I am pretty optimistic," Munster said.

"I'll have scans and see how bad it is.

"I'll duct tape it if I have to. Everyone is playing with injuries at this time of the year."

This was a wonderful fightback by the Storm. They were out of sorts early and trailed 12-0 before Papenhuyzen, Munster and Kenny Bromwich pulverised Parramatta with a second-half riposte.

With scores locked 12-all at halftime, Papenhuyzen and Munster exploded into action, with the fullback setting up three tries and scoring two himself in a Billy Slater-like performance.

 

The Storm are potentially one win away from making yet another Grand Final – which would be Cameron Smiths’ sixth decider. Picture: Getty Images.
The Storm are potentially one win away from making yet another Grand Final – which would be Cameron Smiths’ sixth decider. Picture: Getty Images.

 

STORM DAMAGE

Usually so clinical, the Storm's attack struggled to get out of second gear in the opening 30 minutes.

Melbourne had twice the possession, peppering Parramatta on their right edge, but their timing was awful with a number of clutch passes failing to hit the mark.

The Storm were so disjointed they played the Eels into the contest. They were scrappy and pedestrian, completing at 67 per cent in the first half.

"It was a strange sort of game," Bellamy said. "We lacked communication in the first half, we never really looked like scoring."

so clinical, the Storm's attack struggled to get out of second gear in the opening 30 minutes.

Melbourne had twice the possession, peppering Parramatta on their right edge, but their timing was awful with a number of clutch passes failing to hit the mark.

The Storm were so disjointed they played the Eels into the contest. Cameron Munster twice threw passes which hit the deck with the tryline beckoning. It was pedestrian and scrappy. The Storm's first-half completion rate was 67 per cent.

 

Ryan Papenhuyzen has produced one of his best ever performances for the Storm, guiding them to within a game of the Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images.
Ryan Papenhuyzen has produced one of his best ever performances for the Storm, guiding them to within a game of the Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images.

 

COME TO PAPA

Only the special players can ignite a team searching for their mojo and Papenhuyzen hauled Melbourne out of trouble last night.

The super-fit fullback ran for 225 metres and tormented the Eels with his energy. Bellamy called for NSW selectors to choose him as their No. 14 super sub for this year's Origin series.

"He was our best player by a mile," he said. "If he hadn't been in the team, we wouldn't have won, he was everywhere.

"He would be ideal for the Blues in that (utility) spot."

UNSUNG HEROES

Unheralded duo Kenny Bromwich and Justin Olam were magnificent on the Storm's left edge.

No-fuss back-rower Bromwich had one of the games of his career, slipping a fine pass in the lead-up to Papenhuyzen's 33rd-minute try before running a superb line for Addo-Carr's second-half effort.

Olam is a brutal presence in the centres, rocking the Eels with several stinging shots in defence.

The attitude of Bromwich and Olam is the heartbeat of a Storm side hungry for the first title since 2017.

 

Storm will enjoy a much needed week off, with Munster likely to be racing the clock to be fit after his third serious knee injury of the season. Picture: Getty Images.
Storm will enjoy a much needed week off, with Munster likely to be racing the clock to be fit after his third serious knee injury of the season. Picture: Getty Images.

 

EELS LOSE THEIR SPARK

-Travis Meyn

A 34-year premiership hunt is hanging by a thread with the Eels on the verge of being eliminated from the NRL play-offs after losing a gripping qualifying final to Melbourne last night.

The Eels squandered a 12-0 lead at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to fall 36-24 as the Storm booked a sixth straight preliminary finals appearance in ruthless Melbourne fashion.

Parramatta will face either South Sydney or Newcastle at Bankwest Stadium next Saturday in a knockout final and will be without their two biggest strike weapons.

Wingers Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson suffered potentially serious knee injuries in the 12 - point defeat and look unlikely to play next week, while Marata Niukore was placed on report for a crusher tackle.

Sivo has scored 15 tries in 2020, with Ferguson and fullback Clint Gutherson next best with eight-a-piece.

The Eels hoped of ending a 34-year premiership drought are hanging by a thread. Picture: Getty Images.
The Eels hoped of ending a 34-year premiership drought are hanging by a thread. Picture: Getty Images.

The Eels started 2020 in sensational touch and led the competition after nine rounds, registering 12 wins from their first 15 games to bolt into premiership contention.

But the back end of the year has not been kind to the Eels in their quest to win the club's first title since 1986.

"It was tough, we showed plenty of character, we were brave but it was dumb in key moments, big moments in critical times of the game," Eels coach Brad Arthur said.

"You can't do that against the Melbourne Storm.

"We need to learn from it. We didn't go away, we kept fighting.

"I think Maika is done for the year and Fergo will have to have scans. He might be a chance (to play next week). It's a massive blow for the team.

"I think we showed we're mentally tough enough. They got to 18 points in front but we kept fighting. We just need to get smarter."

Despite losing Sivo in the 10th minute, Parramatta looked to have put their recent struggles behind them and were simply electric in the opening 30 minutes to leave the Storm stunned.

Parramatta's energy and entertaining ball movement was too much for Melbourne to handle as halfback Mitchell Moses piloted the Eels around the park.

Lock Nathan Brown pounced on a loose ball to score inside two minutes before Gutherson finished off a remarkable 70m effort that will contend for try-of-the-year.

Gutherson exploded in passion following the Eels counter-attack which included Michael Jennings producing a flick-pass reminiscent of Benji Marshall's 2005 grand final play.

But a three-minute lapse saw the Storm run in two tries and bring the score back to 12-all at the break, erasing Parramatta's brilliant start to the match.

Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr and Ferguson traded tries early in the second half before Melbourne put Parramatta to the sword with a three-try blitz orchestrated by sensational fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.

Within eight minutes the score went from 18-all to 36-18 in Melbourne's favour, a lead the clinical Storm were never going to squander despite a late push from the Eels.

The Eels have injury dramas of their own, losing starting wingers Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo to injury. Picture: Getty Images.
The Eels have injury dramas of their own, losing starting wingers Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo to injury. Picture: Getty Images.

 

After giving success-starved fans so much hope early in the season, Parramatta is now facing the prospect of a straight sets finals exit.

The Eels' form over the past month has been sketchy and they weren't able to keep pace with Melbourne when the Storm clicked into gear.

Parramatta was gutsy with their scrambling defence and commitment after losing two players to injury but they aren't in the type of form to win a premiership.


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