Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy admits his team’s inept attacking display against Canberra on Monday is a major cause for concern ahead of next month’s NRL final series.
Despite enjoying a 51-16 advantage in plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone, the normally well-oiled Storm machine were limited to just one try in what was their lowest-scoring output since March.
“They defended really well, without a doubt,” Bellamy said.
“But having said that, some of our timing, some of our passing wasn’t what we’d like. It wasn’t up to scratch. When they defend that well, we weren’t quite on top in attack.”
The defeat ended the Storm’s seven-game winning run and forced Bellamy to crown the third-placed Raiders the team to beat heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.
Asked if the sudden loss of cohesion was a concern leading into the finals, Bellamy said: “It certainly is, without a doubt. (But) with all due respect to Canberra, they’ve been contenders for the last 3-4 weeks.”
He also said the Raiders bucked a trend of leading contenders flatlining in recent weeks.
“We all know Cronulla got beat on the weekend, we all know the Cowboys got beat, we all know now we got beat. I reckon those teams, we’ve plateaued a bit in the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“We need to find a way to get better. At the moment, the Raiders are the team that’s lifting their execution, their all-around game. They’re the team (to beat) at the moment, to be quite honest, without a doubt.”
Skipper Cameron Smith accused the Raiders of deliberately conceding penalties inside their red zone in a tactic to disrupt any momentum the Storm had in attack, but said his team were also off.
“Unfortunately we weren’t crisp enough with our attack inside their 20,” he said.
“They scrambled well and their line speed was good. It’s always more difficult to score when you play against teams defending like that.”
The Storm, who regained prop Jordan McLean from a four-week layoff with an ankle injury, remain one point ahead of the Sharks on top of the ladder ahead of their next clash against Manly on Saturday.