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18 Jan

NRL grand finals between the top two teams

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The Melbourne Storm have played three of the NRL grand finals between first and second-placed teams.PAST FIVE GRAND FINALS BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND

* 2012: Melbourne (2nd) bt Canterbury (1st) 14-4

It looked like a one-horse race when the Storm won their opening nine games of the season, but the bubble burst as they lost six of seven through the Origin period. That opened the door for the Bulldogs to claim the minor premiership on the back of their own winning streak of 12 games, led by Ben Barba’s Dally M-winning campaign. The grand final is best remembered for James Graham biting the ear of Billy Slater, later resulting in a 12-game ban. Cooper Cronk won the Clive Churchill medal, and it was Craig Bellamy’s first legitimate title.

* 2008: Manly (2nd) bt Melbourne (1st) 40-0

It was billed as a clash of the top two teams, but in the end it was a non-contest as Manly took revenge for the previous year’s defeat by trouncing over a Melbourne side without suspended captain Cameron Smith. Sea Eagles winger Michael Robertson got a hat trick, but the decider is best remembered for retiring champion Steve Menzies bowing out with a grand final try. The 40-0 scorelines remains the biggest grand final margin in history, and the first time a team was held scoreless since 1978.

* 2007: Melbourne (1st) bt Manly (2nd) 34-8

It was the last time first beat second, but it comes with an asterisk after the Storm were later stripped of the title due to salary cap cheating. Greg Inglis, playing at five-eighth, picked up the Clive Churchill medal in a team that had nine State of Origin stars, including Israel Folau, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Brett White, Matt King, Matt Geyer and Michael Crocker.

* 2004: Canterbury (2nd) bt Sydney Roosters (1st) 16-13

Arguably the biggest rivalry of the early noughties, this grand final proved heroes don’t always get the fairytale finish they deserve as retiring champion Brad Fittler failed to get the job done against a Bulldogs side missing injured skipper Steve Price. Willie Mason claimed the Clive Churchill in a team that had Sonny Bill Williams and a young Johnathan Thurston, who gave his premiership ring to Price.

* 2003: Penrith (1st) bt Sydney Roosters (2nd) 18-6

The last time the a legitimate minor premiers side knocked off second place to lift the trophy. The Panthers finished with one more regular season win than the Roosters but entered the decider as underdogs. However that failed to deter an inexperienced side inspired by Scott Sattler’s unforgettable chasedown tackle of flying winger Todd Byrne.

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