Storm crush Panthers in Smith's 300th
Melbourne have celebrated Cameron Smith's 300th game in style, putting in their best performance of the season to embarrass a hapless Penrith 52-10 at AAMI Park.
The Storm piled on five tries in each half from seven different try scorers as they snapped their four game losing run to re-establish their place in the top eight.
Cooper Cronk was simply sublime, putting on a clinic with two tries, two assists and a 40-20 kick all inside the opening 40 minutes.
However the only blemish on the night was the sight of Cronk's troublesome knee being placed on ice with 10 minutes to play.
Penrith on the other hand were simply dismal. The visitors missed 44 tackles, made 12 errors and finished with a completion rate of just 69%.
The indefinite absence of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak also looks set to hurt them significantly with his inexperienced replacement Will Smith often finding himself out of position and out muscled on the night.
It took 13 minutes for the Panthers to complete their first set of the match and their night only worsened from there.
By that time they had already found themselves 10-0 down after Cronk latched onto a Smith grubber kick before laying a short-hand pass to Tohu Harris who spun through three defenders to score.
The Cronk clinic continued as he completed a 40-20 kick and then ran up field to complete yet another assist to Kevin Proctor.
The first 20 minutes was nothing but one way traffic with possession (77-23%), completed sets (10-2) and the scoreboard (14-0) all in favor of the home side.
Penrith also missed 12 tackles during that opening stanza, with Jamie Soward guilty of three of them as the Storm looked to go after the playmaker at every opportunity.
On 25 minutes Melbourne surged further ahead, this time courtesy of a Blake Green grubber kick to Marika Koroibete that left the Panthers defence in no man's land as the Fijian swooped in for his 10th try of the season.
Koroibete nearly had a double inside two minutes only for his effort to be overturned by the video referee who judged he unfairly shoved Will Smith aside to win possession.
A whole heap of salt was rubbed into the Penrith wound four minutes from halftime when Isaah Yeo was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul on Cronk who looked certain to chase down a Green chip kick to score.
However two plays later Cronk would not be denied again, once again combining with Smith as he received a pass from his skipper to waltz through a gaping defence for his second of the match.
The first half was choc full of Storm highlights but Koroibete took just three minutes in the second to outdo them all.
The scintillating winger caught a Soward high ball 10 metres from his own line then took off like a thief in the night on a barnstorming 90 metre burst that included a fend to Will Smith on halfway as he blew the scoreboard out to 32-0.
From then on it was party time as youngster Christian Welch put Green through 40 metres from home and the five-eighth headed straight for the corner for his eighth try of the season.
The Panthers finally hit the scoreboard on 58 minutes through Waqa Blake and later Tyrone Peachey.
However it was Melbourne's night as Mahe Fonua, Kevin Proctor and Richie Kennar joined the party late to make it seven different try scorers for the match.
Melbourne Storm 52 (Cooper Cronk 2, Marika Koroibete 2, Kevin Proctor 2, Tohu Harris, Blake Green, Mahe Fonua, Richie Kennar tries; Cameron Smith 6 goals) def. Penrith Panthers 10 (Waqa Blake, Tyrone Peachey try; Jamie Soward goal). Half-time: Melbourne 26-0. Crowd: 11,956.