Second NRL premiership for Storm

STEVE JANCETIC
Last updated 22:28 30/09/2012
Melbourne Storm
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The 2012 NRL Premiers, the Melbourne Storm.
Cameron Smith
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TROPHY LIFT: Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith lifts the Provan-Summons trophy, having secured their second NRL premiership.

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It won't bring back the stripped premierships, but Melbourne finally have something to show for their era of NRL dominance after clinically disposing of a resolute Canterbury 14-4 in Sunday's grand final.

Their 2007 and 2009 titles taken off them due to salary-cap breaches, the Storm finally have a second NRL premiership to their name after a drama-charged night at ANZ Stadium that included a biting allegation against James Graham that evoked memories of Mike Tyson's famous ear chomp on Evander Holyfield.

This too was a heavyweight bout for the ages in front of 82,976 fans - the Bulldogs weathering wave after wave of Melbourne attack that on any other night could have ended the contest by halftime.

As was always going to be the case, Melbourne's big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater - who were all involved in those stripped premiership triumphs - were pivotal to the cause.

The trio have denied this was a title charge motivated by redemption for those denied titles, but their performances proved otherwise and Smith admitted a part of him made this victory extra special.

Cronk was the mastermind, brilliantly setting up two of Storm's three tries - including one for a free-running Slater.

Smith's off night with the boot - he was successful with just one of five kicks at goal - helped keep the Bulldogs in the contest, but he and Slater also came up with the defensive plays to set up the win.

With his side under immense pressure on their own line and clinging to the 10-point margin that would eventually separate the two sides, Smith held opposite number Michael Ennis up over the line.

Then Slater, with Ben Barba having finally injected himself into the game to put Josh Morris away 15 minutes from time, denied the Bulldog centre when he got a hand to a ball when Morris seemed certain to score.

The Storm wasted little time in getting down to business as Ryan Hoffman crossed after seven minutes, but they were left frustrated after five straight sets on the Bulldogs line went unrewarded.

They finally settled for a simple penalty shot which Smith duly missed - the blue and whites growing in confidence on the back of their brilliant defence.

Canterbury's first penalty of the game resulted in a Sam Perrett try, but it was the aftermath which caused the greatest stir when Graham was placed on report for allegedly biting the ear of Slater.

Slater was involved in some push and shove with David Stagg when Graham ran a distance to get involved in the stoush, the video replays damming before referee Tony Archer said to his fellow officials "can you see the blood on his ear?" as Slater made his complaint official.

The incident didn't deter Slater as he scored soon after off a Cronk pass to make it 10-4 for the Storm, before the halfback was again the provider with a kick for Justin O'Neill to score right on halftime for what proved to be the final points of the match.

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Melbourne Storm 14 (R Hoffman J O'Neill B Slater tries C Smith goal) Canterbury Bulldogs 4 (S Perrett try) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Tony Archer, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 82,976.

- AAP

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