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Sea Eagles gift NRL final spot to Storm

IAN MCCULLOUGH
Last updated 23:56 21/09/2012
Cameron Smith
Getty Images
JUST RIGHT: Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith believes the Storm are peaking at the right time of the NRL season.

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Manly won the 2011 NRL premiership playing mistake-free, clinical football and surrendered it 12 months later doing the complete opposite as Melbourne cruised to a 40-12 win in Friday's preliminary final at AAMI Park.

The Storm deserved to book their place in the grand final for the first time since the salary cap scandal saw them stripped of their 2007 and 2009 premierships.

But their job was made so much easier by the sloppy Sea Eagles, who made 16 errors and missed 34 tackles in Melbourne - much to the chagrin of coach Geoff Toovey who was blowing a gasket in the coaching box.

Anthony Watmough, just two days after he revealed he had issues with Stillnox seven years ago, started the nightmare, losing the ball on the second tackle of the game.

A last-ditch tackle from Brett Stewart prevented a try to Mahe Fanua, but the Storm made no mistake soon after when Tony Williams dropped the ball cold and Cooper Cronk ran it home for the opening four points of the game.

In-form winger Jorge Taufua continued the horror show when a harmless-looking Cameron Smith kick bounced off his knee, over his hands and into touch.

From the subsequent scrum, Billy Slater darted over from dummy-half and appeared to have dropped the ball over the line, only for the try to be awarded the benefit of the doubt by the video referees.

A third Storm try came on the halfway-mark of the opening stanza from Will Chambers, but Smith's poor kicking game kept the score at a manageable 12-0.

And when Sea Eagles skipper Jamie Lyon rose highest to pluck the ball out of the air, AFL-style, from a Daly Cherry-Evans kick, there was hope of a miracle as his side trailed 12-6 at the break.

But any hope of an improvement in the second half was short-lived.

Chambers brushed aside a weak Steve Matai tackle, and set up Cronk for a fourth Storm try just after the restart.

And the errors kept coming and coming.

Even the usually brilliant Glenn Stewart, got in on the act, knocking-on at the base of the scrum allowing prop Jesse Bromwich to score.

Slater added his second on the hour mark to blow out the scoreline, and to add insult to injury, Jason King joined in the Comedy of Errors, spilling the ball in his own half.

And the ruthless Storm spread the ball wide for Kevin Proctor to score his side's seventh try.

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