|Match Date||24th Aug, 2007|
|Venue||Homebush (Telstra Stadium)|
Billy Slater turned on the magic, Cameron Smith the class and Israel Folau the excitement as Melbourne romped to their second straight NRL minor premiership with a 38-6 win over the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.
The trio proved the difference as the Storm racked up their 20th win of the season, teenage sensation Folau turning an arm wrestle into a runaway win with a hat-trick of tries in the space of nine minutes late in the game.
The haul took his tally to 20 for the season, bettering Slater's mark of 19 in his rookie campaign.
The game was a dogged affair until just before the hour mark as the Storm clung to an 8-6 lead, but four tries in 11 minutes saw the visitors skip away.
Slater, who scored the opening four-pointer of the night when he showed more desperation than his opposite Luke Patten in getting to a Smith grubber, started the rot when he sent Matt Geyer over in the 58th minute.
The electrifying fullback drifted across field before delivering a two man cut-out pass on the chest of the veteran winger, who had positioned himself beautifully outside Cameron Phelps who had come too far infield.
On the next set, Smith got in on the act when he burst out of dummy half, the Test No.9 looking like he had butchered a try when he had ignored Slater who loomed on the outside in support.
But on the following play Cooper Cronk kicked the ball out for Folau to score, the 18-year-old one of four Storm players waiting for the ball with the closest Bulldogs defender 25 metres infield.
Cronk and Folau combined in almost the exact same fashion five minutes later as the Storm skipped out to a 26-6 lead before the towering centre made it a hat-trick 11 minutes from full-time when he showed too much strength to go over under the posts.
Jeff Lima rubbed salt into the wounds when he ran through a flimsy Jarrad Hickey effort two minutes from full-time, Folau showcasing his all-round abilities by nailing the conversion attempt after Smith had been given a well-deserved early mark.
Smith's fifth minute penalty goal was all that separated the two teams at half-time after each scored one try apiece.
The match was played with finals-type intensity but was marred by plenty of dropped ball, the greasy conditions and some bone-crunching defence making handling difficult.
The Storm then went 8-0 up when Slater pounced before Anthony Quinn joined Sonny Bill Williams in being pinged by referee Ben Cummins for a grapple tackle as the NRL continued its crackdown on the illegal tactic.
After making a mess of several opportunities the Bulldogs finally cracked the Storm line when Hickey crashed over from close range, but it was to be the home side's only joy of the night.
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||1||0||2|
|Ben Roberts||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brent Sherwin||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew Ryan||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Sonny Bill Williams||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Chris Armit||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Mark O'Meley||Front Row||0||0||0||0|