The Melbourne Storm maintained their 10-year unbeaten record at Suncorp Stadium in emphatic fashion with a 40-4 thumping of the Brisbane Broncos in what was a stern reality check for the home side’s finals aspirations.
The Broncos had enjoyed an undefeated month of football but were torn apart by a Storm side that made a stunning 10 line breaks to one.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Dale Finucane and Christian Welch were dominant in the middle of the park and the Broncos had no answer.
The Storm’s win has them six points clear at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder while Brisbane are in ninth place on 19 competition points and must win four of their remaining five games to make the finals.
Match: Broncos v Storm
Round 20 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The clash with the Storm was one they were not expected to win but the Broncos did not bank on being blown off the park in such an emphatic manner.
Brisbane brought in rookie Xavier Coates to play at left centre with Matt Gillett ruled out with injury and Alex Glenn reverting to the back row.
It was the right edge of the Broncos that the Storm targeted throughout the first half and they had early success when winger Josh Addo-Carr hit a perfect Justin Olam pass to score.
The Storm had 60 per cent of possession in the opening 40 minutes, helped by Kotoni Staggs twice kicking the ball dead from re-starts.
Hughes gets past Boyd and Coates
Brisbane scrambled well in defence for the majority of the opening stanza but as the half wore on the weight of possession proved too great.
Cameron Smith, captaining Melbourne for the 300th time, darted out of dummy half and bamboozled the markers for Welch to steam through between Payne Haas and Joe Ofahengaue to give Melbourne a 12-nil lead in the 29th minute.
Smith was putting on a masterclass, which he showcased in style with a perfect 40-metre kick into the in-goal. From the restart Kenny Bromwich ran a brilliant line off a Cameron Munster pass to extend the lead to 18-nil at half-time.
The Broncos had the worst possible start to the second half with an error gifting Melbourne the ball. The Storm went to the right and fullback Jahrome Hughes ran a swerving arc to hit the ball at speed and crash through.
There was a hint of genius to the next try with Olam throwing a swivel pass to Kenny Bromwich who exchanged passes with Addo-Carr to score a cracker. It was slick and unstoppable.
Staggs finally gets Brisbane on the board
Minutes later Olam again burst into the clear with Kenny Bromwich by his side again. It was the 36-year-old veteran Smith who was steaming through to finish it off.
The blitz continued with Smith and Munster sending speed demon Ryan Papenhuyzen over to take it out to 40-nil.
Creative play by hooker James Segeyaro led to a rampaging Staggs scoring the Broncos only try.
The Broncos will likely need 27 competition points to play in the finals and their cause was helped slightly by the Warriors 46-12 loss to the Raiders.
They will welcome back Tevita Pangai jnr from injury for the away clash with the Cowboys on Thursday night.
Teenage half Tom Dearden is set to play Intrust Super Cup for Wynnum-Manly on Saturday against Easts Tigers in his return from a syndesmosis injury and if he comes through he will be an option in the halves for Brisbane.
The Storm have played in the last three grand finals and appear firmly on track to make it four in a row. When Melbourne go up a gear few can go with them, and certainly not the Broncos.