They went within 80 minutes of a grand final, but Storm star Cameron Munster says his side must “find our DNA” after they were thumped by Penrith to end a season that was consistently inconsistent.
Written off before the preliminary final even started, the Storm will feel that they could have easily led at half-time after they scored early but bombed several chances which you simply can’t do against a champion team like Penrith.
In the end they completed just 65 per cent of their sets and fell apart defensively as Penrith’s relentless ball movement proved too much for Melbourne to handle.
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“We just didn’t ice our moments,” Munster lamented.
“It was a frustrating night because they didn’t make an error until the 60th minute. They didn’t give us an inch but we gave them a mile.
“I thought we were good in patches and we were on top at certain stages, but we made mistakes in the pressure moments and you can’t do that against quality sides in the finals.”
It’s been a strange year for the Storm who lost a stack of experience with key forwards Felise Kaufusi, Brandon Smith and Jesse and Kenny Bromwich all leaving.
It was telling that no Storm forward ran for 100 metres on Friday night, with Penrith’s middles dominating the contest which allowed Nathan Cleary to run riot.
The Panthers piled on 38 points which is the most the Storm have allowed in a finals match since they were humbled 40-0 in the 2008 decider.
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“Everyone talks about defence and it’s usually the best defensive team that wins the competition,” Munster said.
“They’re the best defensive team in the comp so we need to go back to the drawing board and have a really hard pre-season in defence to try to find our DNA again because at the moment we’re leaking too many points.
“Melbourne Storm sides don’t do that. It’s been pretty embarrassing and I definitely need to work on my defence as well.
“We’ve got to be accountable for everything. If we can do that and look each other in the eye then it’s going to be a good year.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy was clearly frustrated after the loss given his side showed in the first half that they had the game plan to trouble the two-time defending premiers.
Melbourne lacked the intimidation factor and class out wide to match it with the Panthers, with their second-half fadeout perfectly summing up their struggles this season which were masked by a third-place finish.
The Storm’s longest winning streak was four matches and came in the final month of the regular season, and while that’s something plenty of teams can only dream of, it’s the first time they haven’t won at least five games in a row since way back in 2015.
“We didn’t get ourselves a chance. We shot ourselves in the foot. We blew our foot off, actually,” Bellamy said, with the Storm set to welcome Ryan Papenhuyzen back next year.
“We had some opportunities in the first half but we didn’t nail them and we didn’t ice them.
“Our game tonight was probably a small example of what we’ve been dishing up all year. It’s been up and down, up and down, inconsistency.
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“If we didn’t know that before tonight then we learnt a good lesson. Hopefully we might be able to take something out of it next season.
“It took us a little while to know what our best footy was and what worked for us (this year).
“We had a bit of a change in personnel in the off-season so that took a little while, but it just kept creeping in every now and then.
“We did a really good job to get to where we did on the table, but the finals series was basically what our season has been – up and down, up and down.
“You’re not going to go a long way in a competition unless you start evening that out.”