Melbourne completely dominated tonight’s Anzac Day NRL clash to power to a commanding 42-0 win over the Vodafone Warriors at AAMI Park.
The outcome couldn't have been more disappointing for the Vodafone Warriors, who came into the game off last week's success against Canterbury-Bankstown looking to even up their 2016 record at four wins and four losses.
But they were never in the contest as the Storm came at them remorselessly in the opening stanza to surge to a 16-0 lead in as many minutes and extending to 28-0 at halftime.
It was a start the Vodafone Warriors couldn't recover from as the Storm lit the fuse in a stunning spree.
Even more concerning were injuries to two of the Vodafone Warriors' most important players with Tuimoala Lolohea leaving the field with a knee injury in the first half and Simon Mannering taken off early in the second half with an ugly facial wound.
The Anzac Day ceremony preceding this seventh edition of the April 25 tradition was a powerful spectacle setting the scene for the football to follow but it turned out to be a night to forget.
The start to the match followed a familiar script with the Vodafone Warriors once again wearing the first penalty of the night, opening the way for the Storm to lay on the first try of the night far too easily for second rower Tohu Harris.
From the restart the Vodafone Warriors were penalised again and once more couldn’t defend the repeat set as Melbourne pierced the visitors' right edge defence for the second time in three minutes to lay on a try for prop Tim Glasby. Cameron Smith converted the second try for a 10-0 lead after just six minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors hadn’t settled at all after the pre-match ceremony and were within a few centimetres of conceding a third try when right wing Suliasi Vunivalu went across in the corner, the opportunity coming from a repeat set following yet another penalty. It was referred to the bunker for a possible obstruction but while that was cleared the men on video duty then discovered Vunivalu’s right foot on the touchline. A bullet dodged.
At last the Vodafone Warriors picked up a couple of penalties and had a shot at the Melbourne line; it turned out to be a brief respite.
Fullback Cameron Munster cleared the danger from his in-goal and made a long break before being checked by Lolohea and Blake Ayshford. It proved costly, though, with Ayshford holding on and being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
With the penalty set to defend and only 12 players on the field, the Vodafone Warriors couldn’t hold out the Storm once more with prop Jesse Bromwich finding an easy path to the line around the ruck. With Smith’s conversion it was 16-0 after 17 minutes.
There was further disappointment five minutes later. On attack the Vodafone Warriors lost possession when Lolohea was flattened by Vunivalu, the Storm picking up the loose ball, attacking down the left edge with centre Young Tonumaipea slipping a nice off load around the back for Marika Koroibete to score the Storm’s fourth try of the match.
The Storm weren’t in any mood for a grinding contest, like so many of their displays usually are. They were in a fast and furious mood and had a 22-0 lead to show for it after 23 minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors weren’t just in trouble on the scoreboard but also on the injury count losing a fullback for the second week running with Lolohea forced off with a knee complaint. Fusitu’a was moved to fullback and Jonathan Wright came on to fill the right wing’s spot.
After another Vodafone Warriors error, Melbourne shaped for more points forcing a goal-line dropout and coming at the visitors through their right edge for Vunivalu to go over for what might have been another try. Thomas Leuluai was clearly obstructed by Kevin Proctor, though, and the would-be try was rubbed out.
The Storm aimed at the left edge and were seemingly set to score again only to lose the ball over the line.
They made up for it in the 34th minute, Munster stepping and twisting his way over with Smith converting for a 28-0 lead. Ominously it was the same halftime score-line posted by Wests Tigers in the opening round of the season on March 5.
At the break Melbourne had had 23 sets, the Vodafone Warriors only 13. The Storm had the line breaks 7-0 and the Vodafone Warriors had missed 20 tackles, Melbourne only five.
While the scoreboard damage slowed in the opening minutes of the second spell, a grim night for the Vodafone Warriors was further blighted by another serious injury. This time it was Mannering with a terrible facial cut.
Reduced to two players on the interchange and missing their workhorse Mannering, the Vodafone Warriors held firm for the first 15 minutes of the spell but in the 55th minute the margin grew to 34-0 to Melbourne with a Cooper Cronk try wide out.
On his third attempt Vunivalu was awarded a legitimate try for a 38-0 advantage before the Vodafone Warriors had a chance for what could have been their only try of the night. Nice hands to the right gave Fusitu'a a shot at the corner but replays showed the ball had brushed the touchline in-goal as he put it down.
There was time for one more Storm strike, Vunivalu getting his second to complete a harrowing night for the Vodafone Warriors.
The score-line apart, the game stats made tough reading with Melbourne taking the line breaks 10-1 and completing 36 of 43 sets (the Vodafone Warriors just 21 of 30). The Storm had 11 players who made 100 metres plus and two - Harris and Munster - who topped 200 metres; the Vodafone Warriors had six.
They fly home tomorrow to prepare from Sunday's ninth-round encounter with St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium (2.00pm kick-off), the Dragons heading to Auckland after beating the Sydney Roosters 20-18 today.
Match details | AAMI Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Storm 42 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Tohu Harris, Tim Glasby, Marika Koroibete, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk tries; Cameron Smith 5 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 0.
Halftime: 28-0 Storm.
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Gavin Reynolds.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; David Jonathan Wright, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei; Tuimoala Lolohea, Shaun Johnson; Sam Lisone, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c); Simon Mannering. Interchange: Jonathan Wright, Jacob Lillyman, Charlie Gubb, Ligi Sao.