Melbourne Storm Win World Club Challenge
To the delight of Aussie rugby league fans, Melbourne got to host the World Club Challenge this year. The match to determine the best club side in the world was, inaugurated in 1976, but has only been played annually since 2000.
It’s the ultimate northern hemisphere-southern hemisphere clash, featuring the NRL champions against the Super League champions, and at the 2018 World Club Challenge on Friday night, the Melbourne Storm duly hosted the Leeds Rhinos.
Although it’s known that hippos once roamed the Thames valley, we’re not sure there were ever rhinos in Leeds; any rhino-like threat the visitors posed to their hosts was certainly proven mythical in short order.
The Storm, not to put too fine a point on it, blew Leeds away with a 38-4 win – an identical score to that in the 2016 World Club Challenge, when the Rhinos were again runners-up, this time to North Queensland.
The victory also puts the Storm level with legendary Wigan Warriors as four-time winners of the Challenge – a record that the Rhinos would have shared instead, had they won, so all in all, it was a game with a lot on the line.
Leeds Under Strength, Missing Key Players
The final score gives a deceptive impression of the match, however. The Super League champions were game as anything, as they fought to pull off only the second win by an English side on Australian soil – another record held by Wigan, after they managed it against the Broncos in Brisbane in 1994.
Leeds have remained unbeaten as defending champs in their first two Super League matches of the season, but they travelled to Melbourne without several key forwards, which weakened their attack.
With a solid defence holding their ground for long stretches of the game, it was the inability to capitalise on pressure situations and achieve penetration that let them down time and again.
In contrast, the Storm had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, including veteran second-row star Ryan Hoffman, returning after three years with the New Zealand Warriors.
The home side ran in seven tries, four of them converted by Cameron Smith, and one by Cameron Munster. In reply, the Rhinos could only manage an unconverted try by Ryan Hall.