MELBOURNE annihilated Brisbane on Friday evening in an utterly one-sided, post-Origin affair. Sure, the Broncos were missing Darren Lockyer and Justin Hodges, but this must be up there with Brisbane’s worst performances in 22 seasons of national rugby league.
The Storm were massive at home. On a damp, dewy track that could be best labelled “dead”, they threw precise passes, ran hard at holes and did a lot of things right. This game will serve as a huge confidence booster for a side that some thought were getting back to the pack in season ’09. All their stars stood up and their lesser lights played with freedom.
The Broncos would be best served just forgiving and forgetting. In the first half they were arguably still in the match, going to the break down 20-0. They needed to score first in the second half but instead managed only one try, in the 67th minute, by which time Melbourne had run over another three.
Brisbane are still a premiership favourite but boy – this will have punters assessing their options.
The Game Swung When … In the 18th minute the Broncos were down 10-0 and had an attacking raid down the left-hand side. An ordinary kick went in-goal and nothing came of it. Two minutes later a promising Broncos raid down the left came to nothing also. Crucial plays.
In the 27th minute Brisbane had been hanging on, down 10-nil but still in the game. On the fifth tackle within their own 30-metre line, they were tackled after their allotted (six) tackles. The Storm did not need another invitation with Cooper Cronk crashing over from close in to make it 14-0. Rookie wing Joseph Tomane converted and the Broncos were battling like Spartacus. For another 10 minutes Brisbane hung on until half-time.
But after the break Billy Slater plunged over from seven metres out.
And then the Storm ran riot.
Who Was Hot… Melbourne had big contributors all over the paddock. Up front Jeff Lima (18 runs, 158 metres, four tackle breaks) and Brett White (11 runs, 115 metres) bent huge holes in the Broncos’ line. Lima in particular knows one way to go, while White’s decision to run straight into Karmichael Hunt rather than feed the players in support was classic front-rower play. Great stuff.
In Melbourne’s second row Ryan Hoffman (18 runs, 132 metres) and Sika Manu (17 runs, 151 metres) had huge games, as did Adam Blair who came off the bench, made 13 runs for 113 metres, and offloaded four times.
On the back of their forward dominance, Melbourne’s backs ran through the Broncos like Tomaine poisoning.
Tomane scored a hat-trick, kicked six goals from nine.
Greg Inglis was electric; each of Tomane’s tries came from his hand.
Slater ran with penetration and precision, while Storm playmakers Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Brett Finch were all in fine fettle.
For the Broncos, Corey Parker made a game-high 30 tackles.
Who Was Not… One doesn’t want to heap too much negativity on the Brisbane team… but every single one of their players played badly.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The score. Have the Broncos been so thoroughly fleeced in their 21 years of inclusion in the premiership? When Hodges and Lockyer were ruled out for this clash, the Broncos were always going to be under the pump. But to be flogged by 44 points? No. This was not envisaged.
In the 9th minute Greg Inglis went 70 metres after a Billy Slater bust. It looked a pretty simple try but only because it was conjured by two of the best players on the planet. They run like hairy goats.
From a kick-off, Inglis was about to stuff up and watch the ball go into touch, but leapt into touch and batted the ball back in like Andre Agassi chasing a cross-court volley. Three plays later the Storm showed quick hands and scored down the other end.
Broncos wild man Lagi Setu put a hit on Sika Manu that was the biggest hit since the Beatles had a number one song with She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah.
Dave Taylor had a crack at a chart-buster himself with a big hit, also on Lima, but given Melbourne was up by 40 points, Lima was not that fussed.
Bad Boys… None.
Refs Watch… In the 47th minute Hoffman dropped the ball backwards and the referees called “knock-back”. Despite this being a seeming obvious ruling, it doesn’t always happen. So – thumbs up, refs!
Great game from the officials. Not one call anyone could have a quibble with.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jeff Lima (Storm): A mountain of powerful work from a purple wrecking-ball; 2 points – Sika Manu (Storm): A mountain of powerful work from a purple wrecking-ball, also; 1 point – Cooper Cronk (Storm): The perfect link between rampaging forwards and rampaging backs. Queensland’s third-choice halfback would be NSW’s first.
Storm 48 (J Tomane 3, C Cronk 2, G Inglis, W Chambers, B Slater, A Tolman tries; J Tomane 6 goals) def Broncos 4 (I Folau try) at Olympic Park. Crowd: 15,318.