Melbourne to edge out the Panthers in a high-scoring thriller

Melbourne Storm has generally been able to suffocate teams after jumping to a lead over its long era of domination, but will we see a rush of points in the first grand final under the six-again rule?
Melbourne Storm has generally been able to suffocate teams after jumping to a lead over its long era of domination, but will we see a rush of points in the first grand final under the six-again rule?

Historically, the best defensive team wins the grand final.

Just look at the past three deciders. In 2017, the Melbourne Storm hammered North Queensland 34-6. The following year the Roosters toppled the Storm 21-6. And last year the Roosters again only allowed one try in a 14-8 win over Canberra.

But will this year's introduction of the six-again rule and return to only one referee result in the grand final boasting plenty of points?

In the eight finals so far, 413 points have been scored at an average of almost 52.

The last two grand finals have averaged 24.5

Melbourne has been the masters over its 15-season domination of jumping to an early lead and 'strangling' the other side.

You could count on one hand the Storm being run down with a double-figure lead.

And there's a fear in the league that if the experienced Storm, in its fourth grand final in the past five seasons, grabs the early lead, the young Penrith team won't have the composure to reel them in.

It's hard to believe a team which has won 17 straight games will go into Sunday night's game as the outsider.

History shows that when you rack up long winning streaks, you generally win.

Eastern Suburbs won 19 straight in 1975, before losing in round 22, but rebounded to crush St George 38-0 in the decider.

Cronulla won 15 from round five in 2016, had a loss, but recovered to topple the Storm.

Apart from a slow start against Parramatta in the first weeks of finals, the Storm has been untouchable, averaging 33 points for and 17 against.

The Panthers are 24.5 and 22 respectively.

It's the first grand final under the new rule changes so we don't know whether it will be a 40-point plus bonanza or a get-to-a-lead-and-hold-them-out scenario.

Let's hope it's the former because the footy this year has been the best since the 1990s when the star-studded Brisbane and Canberra outfits were producing cracker contests or Manly and Newcastle were thrashing it out.

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The attack's been back to the future but, despite Penrith's domination, I think Melbourne will send captain Cameron Smith out a winner in a 24-20 thriller.

This story Defence has always won deciders, but are we set to see points galore? first appeared on The Border Mail.