Melbourne wins National Rugby League title, beats Cowboys

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Storm players lined up in arms during the Anthem.

Storm players lined up in arms during the Anthem. (Photo: photosport.nz)

SYDNEY (AP) — The Melbourne Storm ended a dominating season with an almost routine 34-6 win over the North Queensland Cowboys in the National Rugby League grand final on Sunday.

The Storm, who finished in first place during the regular season, led 18-0 at halftime. The Cowboys had qualified for the playoffs from the eighth and final playoff spot, and had won three matches in the finals, but were clearly outclassed by the Storm on Sunday.

The title match was played before 79,722 spectators at Sydney's Olympic stadium.

Overwhelming favorites before the match, the Storm wore the Cowboys down for 20 minutes before Josh Addo-Carr broke through for the first try of the match. From there, the Storm never looked like losing. Felise Kaufusi and Billy Slater took the score to 18-0 after 40 minutes. Dale Finucane, Curtis Scott and Addo-Carr scored second-half tries for the Storm.

Slater won the Clive Churchill medal as the best player in the final.

"To be as consistent as we were all year, it was a great performance, and one that we've been doing all year, so we were very confident we could do it," Slater said.

North Queensland halfback Michael Morgan said he was embarrassed.

"It feels like a waste of a season to be honest," Morgan said. "That scoreline doesn't reflect the effort we put in this year."

Melbourne star halfback Cooper Cronk is expected to retire or move to a Sydney club next season.

"I'll celebrate this, wake up with a hangover in a couple of days, and then I'll have a think about it," Cronk said. "It's really hard to give up moments like this. You work extremely hard for it."

The Cowboys, at the end of an injury-hit season that included losing captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, suffered another blow in the final, losing prop Shaun Fensom to a broken leg in the third minute.

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