Melbourne have overcome an unsettled week to put the cleaners through Newcastle 48-4 at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.
Forced to flee Melbourne on Thursday before the Victorian capital went into lockdown, the Storm could have been forgiven for being out of sync, but instead they ran in five first-half tries to blow Newcastle away and show they can overcome any hurdles put in front of them.
Craig Bellamy’s men won a premiership while based at the Sunshine Coast last season, they have an admirable record at Suncorp Stadium, and now they seem to be settling in just fine at the Gold Coast hub. The eight-tries-to-one win was the Storm’s 25th consecutive victory in Queensland.
Nicho Hynes and Jahrome Hughes once again starred for Melbourne in keeping their attack humming, with the fullback making 193 metres from 21 runs and having two try assists and four tackle breaks.
Match: Storm v Knights
Round 18 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Hughes also contributed two try assists and was a constant menace to a Knights defensive line which offered little resistance.
"Hughesy just seems to be able to create something out of nothing," coach Craig Bellamy said.
"You don't see anything there but then he goes there and comes out the other side. He's a remarkable player - he's got nous, he's got speed, he's got skill.
"It was a big decision to put him into halfback and he's made a real success of it. With all due respect I wouldn't swap him for anyone, or any halfback in the game.
"As for Nicho, he's just got better and better as the year has gone on."
A try sealed with a shoey for Hynes
Justin Olam and George Jennings scored doubles as the points continued to pile up for the Storm, who have now posted 40 points or more 11 times this season.
To be fair to the Knights, they lost key players David Klemmer and Kalyn Ponga to failed concussions tests in the first half.
That was after Mitchell Pearce (hamstring) was ruled out on the eve of the match, which isn’t going to help the Knights trying to get a healthy side to play the Roosters next Friday.
Melbourne had their own injury concerns with Blues prop Dale Finucane leaving the field in the 31st minute and not returning while Jennings suffered a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) knee injury and Bellamy said he would "miss a fair bit of time".
"This is up there with any of the other wins we’ve had this year," Bellamy said.
"We didn’t have anyone that could go back on the field with 22 minutes to go. Dale was obviously a HIA, Hughes (calf) got hurt, George got hurt and Tui Kamikamica got hurt (severe cramp) and then we had young (Aaron) Booth.
"He dislocated his shoulder but it popped back in so it was a brave performance by him.
Hughes scoops up a kick gets into the backfield and send Reimis Smith over
"After the week we’ve endured … it’s one of the better wins I can remember."
The game started to a familiar tune – Hynes setting up Olam in the seventh minute as the Storm capitalised on early Knights errors by Dom Young and Enari Tuala.
While Christian Welsh and Josh Addo-Carr were rested after Origin, Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster still had plenty spring in his step supporting Hughes to score the Storm’s second. Just five minutes later and Melbourne grabbed their third through Jennings.
Munster through the middle, Olam in for his second
In the shadow of half-time another two quick tries to Hughes and Hynes made it 30-0 at the break, giving the Storm a combined score of 100-0 in their past three first halves against Wests Tigers, Roosters and Knights.
Six minutes into the second term and the Storm were in again after Hughes gathered a kick on his own tryline and raced 70 metres before finding Reimis Smith to score.
Jennings made it a double in the 53rd minute to make it 42-0 before Dom Young finally crossed to get the Knights on the board in the 56th minute.
A sensational run by Munster then set up Olam for his second try of the night as the Storm cruised to their 14th consecutive win.
Bellamy's men now head to Townsville for a round 19 clash with the struggling Cowboys before a top of the table blockbuster against the Panthers which could well decide the minor premiership.
Bellamy is looking to rest two of his Origin players, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi, as Melbourne plots their path to the NRL finals.
Bellamy is no stranger to the practice of giving his Origin stars time off from club matches to ensure their freshness for the end of the season.
While Welsh and Addo-Carr were rested, Munster and Kaufusi played all 80 minutes.
"They've done that the whole (Origin series) so we'd like to give them a rest at some stage too," Bellamy said.
"They were tremendous to come back from Wednesday night's performance and back it up with real good performances again tonight for the team.
"We obviously intended to give them a rest at some stage during the game but with the injuries we had, we just couldn't."
Bellamy has the ongoing issue of what to do with fullback Nicho Hynes when his first-choice No.1 Ryan Papenhuyzen is back from concussion.
"I don't want to start making plans if we're not going to put those plans in place. Paps is not playing yet - so when he gets the OK to play, that's when we start making those sorts of decisions," Bellamy said.
"We just need to give it a little bit more time."