Numbers point to Storm NRL title win

Numbers point to Storm NRL title win

A purple wall that has been near-impregnable all year stands between Cronulla and relief from 50 years of heartache.

An analysis of the numbers points to a Melbourne victory in this year’s NRL grand final.

According to Fox Sports Stats, of the last 10 premiers, six have boasted the best defence during the season.

And that all bodes well for Craig Bellamy’s charges who not only conceded the least points in 2016 (12.5 per game), they led the league for completion rates (81.9 per cent), least handling errors (7.7), least linebreaks conceded (2.7) and least missed tackles (19.5).

It all makes for impressive reading and retiring Sharks hooker Michael Ennis accepts no one plays percentage football like the Storm.

“The Storm have been the benchmark for the last decade in a lot of ways,” Ennis said.

“The Storm, they don’t beat themselves. That’s probably the ultimate accolade you can give them. You’ve got to play well to beat them.”

While the Storm have been guilty of being predictable this year, stopping such a well-drilled outfit has proven more difficult and they are the only team not to lose back-to-back matches.

The Storm do have chinks in their armour: they have conceded 32 of 55 tries on the extreme edges – the second biggest percentage of any side.

The Sharks rely on their back three of Valentine Holmes, Sosaia Feki and Ben Barba for strike power and will expose any frailties along the Storm’s fringes.

Holmes, 21, is fourth on the try scorers’ list with 19 four-pointers as well as being fifth for linebreaks.

Barba’s haul of 15 tries is the most since his Dally M season in 2012. He is also ninth for linebreaks (19) and seventh for try assists (21).

However all of that will mean little if the likes of Gallen and Andrew Fifita (who are both equal third for most metres gained by a forward with an average 162m) do not find room up the middle.

“The forward pack,” Storm skipper Cameron Smith replied when asked where the game will be won and lost.

“The match up there is quite critical. In big games you need your big men performing well. I’ve been pleased with how our big guys have been playing all season. I expect nothing less this week.”

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