The Melbourne Storm have sent a message to other NRL finalists that they may come up against: take your chances against us, at your own peril.
This comes after the Storm rode a barnstorming attacking onslaught to lock up second spot on the NRL ladder, beating the Wests Tigers 50-22 at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Storm’s attack was unstoppable in the first half to pace the win, annihilating the Tigers with two tries in the first eight minutes, three others in the final quarter-hour before the break – and all the while, showing an uncanny resilience with scores within a few minutes whenever the Tigers would score the odd try.
Overall, it was a six tries to two onslaught that saw wingers Suliasi Vinuvalu and Josh Addo-Carr score twice apiece before halftime to pace the Storm’s nine total tries for the match among seven different try scorers, in sharing the wealth around.
But ever the perfectionist, Storm coach Craig Bellamy was critical of his team surrendering four tries to the Tigers, and committing what he felt were some bad mental and physical mistakes along the way.
And he would like for his team to focus on correcting them before the finals start in two weeks’ time.
“I thought our defence was quite ordinary and all over the place, especially in the second half,” Bellamy said.
“Our attack has been going very well for us – but we do need to prepare well for our games, and that includes to work on our defence a bit,” he added.
If the Storm was accused of putting forth a lackadaisical second-half effort in coasting to a 36-20 win over North Queensland last week, then they opened up in this match’s first ten minutes in a clinical and devastating fashion in attacking down both wings, with Vinuvalu and Addo-Carr each scoring tries with relative ease to give Melbourne a 12-0 advantage after Cam Smith’s successful conversions.
The Storm’s utter determination to open the match was defined on a single short run that they did not score from, but showed a display of sheer force. Tino Faasuamaleaui, from inside the final five metres from goal, plowed head-on over two defenders, thereby leaving them dazed and prone on the paddock.
But the Tigers – highly competitive last week in a 26-24 loss to South Sydney – reduced the arrears to eight points after Asu Kepaoa’s acrobatic leaping finish in the corner from captain Benji Marshall’s telling pass.
The Storm responded to stretch its lead back to 12 points a couple of minutes later when fullback Nicho Hynes benefitted from Cameron Munster’s playmaking and Addo-Carr’s decoy running to advance over the try line easily.
Josh Aloiai racked up the Tigers’ second try with a quarter-hour to go before the break as Melbourne’s Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona both failed to close him up on their tackles. And after Adam Doueihi’s conversion, it was a six-point game again.
However, the Storm – just as was the case after the Tigers’ first try – were resilient, with Vinuvalu scoring his second try a couple of minutes later, from Jahrome Hughes’ perfectly delicate chip kick for him to run under and pin the ball easily over the try line for a 12-point lead after Smith’s conversion.
Hughes extended the Storm’s lead to 28-10 after Smith’s conversion, by running through a wide gap in the Tigers’ resistance after receiving quality playmaking from Munster and Hynes – and Melbourne looked like they could dictate attacking play every time they touched the ball.
And Addo-Carr proved that with a single blistering run in the final minute before halftime, for the Storm’s sixth try of the opening stanza. Justin Olam fielded a wayward bouncing ball from a Tigers kick, found Addo-Carr in space to bolt 70-odd metres downfield and past two defenders to score his second try of the match with ease.
Smith then missed his second of six conversions, but Melbourne could afford the odd miss from its captain as they clearly dominated the opening 40 minutes to lead 32-10.
While Melbourne were hit by a trio of injuries to Vinuvalu, Kenny Bromwich and Asofa-Solomona which required the team’s greater concern, the Tigers regained some focus to score the first two tries of the second half in quick succession to cut the Storm’s lead to a mere ten points.
The Marshall-to-Kepaoa combination struck again, and Doueihi then left Munster and Max King grasping at air a couple of minutes later, and added the two points for the second time in a matter of minutes.
But just like in the first half, Melbourne responded to the Tigers’ scoring with a rapier-like precision just a few minutes later to extend the lead back to 16 points, with Addo-Carr, Smith and Hynes doing the playmaking for Olam to apply his quickness to get over the try line.
Smith then got a try of his own confirmed by a call from the bunker with seven minutes to play to take the Storm’s lead to 22 points with the successful points-after.
Faasuamaleaui would then split his way past two Tigers defenders with three minutes to play, touching down from Smith’s last-tackle dribbling kick to put an exclamation point on Melbourne’s rampant attacking display on the evening, with Smith adding the conversion to bring up the Storm’s half-ton on the night.