Stacey Jones played his 261st Nrl match tonight at Mt Smart Stadium. It was his last. And, dare say, not his most memorable, as his side went down 30-0 to the Melbourne Storm. A clear, calm evening along with 14734 mightily keen supporters of the little general, turned up to witness Jones' last stand.
Unfortunately for them, the old magic wasn't anywhere to be seen, as Melbourne ran in six unanswered tries. It was, from the Storm, a clinical performance that had the scent of a team fine tuning their performance for a finals onslaught, beginning next week. A judicious kicking game, that continually forced their opposition to bring the ball out from deep within their red zone. It also forced the Warrior's to concede six goal line drop-outs. It took time, but the pressure built. And, it told in the second half.
The Warrior's had done exceedingly well to limit the damage to 12-0 at the break. Tries to the ever present Billy Slater and centre, Will Chambers. For they had not had their share of possession. Despite, surprisingly, having Simon Mannering back from injury, to give some much needed size in the centres, they were still without Captain, Steve Price and their only attacking weapon this year, Manu Vatuvei. And, it showed. Many was the time that the Warrior's got themselves in attacking positions. Alas, just as many was the time that they offered nothing, once in those attacking locations. All season long, last tackle options involved kicking high for Vatuvei. Hard to do when he's not there. So what did they do? Well, one would like to inform you all. Unfortunately not possible, as one could not see any plausibly good options been taken.
Despite a strong first up set of six at the start of the second stanza for the Warrior's, it was more of the same. Melbourne, too, provided more of the same. And in the case of Greg Inglis, superstar extraordinaire, it was an sparkling array of attacking deliverance. For, in the 46th minute, Inglis scooped the ball up from the play the ball, charged off up field, to go where very few men ever get to go, a seventy metre dash to the opposition's in-goal area to touch down.
16-nil down, the floodgates were about to open. The Warrior's could no longer stem the tide. A second try to Will Chambers in the 54th minute, gave Melbourne a twenty point buffer. Also gave the Warrior's very little hope of a comeback.
And, so it turned out, as the gates opened and the tide turned into a torrent. Seven minutes later and winger, Dane Nielson, scored in the left corner, off what has to be said, was a dubious pass. Cameron Smith converts from the sideline. It's a fine goal, that's to be sure.
The storm rounded of their gleefully efficient scoring spree with a 70th minute try to Ryan Hinchcliffe, to take the score out to 30-0. Where it stayed.
For the Warrior's, it was a disappointing way to send Jones off. But, their performance tonight was symptomatic of what has happened all season. Great effort put in, but on attack, the evidence presented was non existent.
While fans would have hoped to see their team perform better, a scoreline such as tonights may at least have a silver lining, in that it was evident that this is a club that has major problems.