Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith.

Titans v Storm: Five key points

Fijian flyer's NRL career taking off, Storm skipper a class above, Titans vow not to be weighed down by heavy defeat and Bellamy's praise for players filling the void during injury crisis in the Storm's stocks of outside backs.

 


Vunivalu exceeding Storm's expectations

Given no active player in the NRL started their careers with try-scoring doubles in each of their first three games it is little wonder that Suliasi Vunivalu has surprised even the Storm coaching staff with how he has taken to the top grade. 

A natural finisher with extraordinary athletic gifts, Vunivalu's speed was compared to that of Brisbane flyer James Roberts in commentary by Maroons coach Kevin Walters as he sprinted over for a try in the first half and then leapt high above the pack to claim a second in the second half. 

With a disrupted pre-season Storm coach Craig Bellamy did not anticipate using Vunivalu so early in the season before injuries left him with few alternatives.

"It was forced on us to be quite honest but I must say, how he's handled it has been outstanding," Bellamy said.

"We all knew he had a lot of ability athletically and footy wise as well but what he's actually shown is probably more than we actually thought. He didn't play a whole heap last year because of injury so he's probably only played 20-30 games of rugby league in his life.

"He makes some of the hard things look really easy at times and other times he might make the easy things look a little bit hard but we're really happy with how he's going. He's a tremendous kid off the field, he's really respectful and hard working and hopefully he can get a decent run with injuries we think we might have a player on our hands."


Smith's influence a class apart

You can't say he "turned back the clock" because he has been so good for such a long period of time but the way Cameron Smith orchestrated Sunday's 38-0 drubbing was almost unfair to the Titans players simply not in his league. With an average of just 48 running metres Smith revelled in the room his big forwards created, racking up 83 metres by half-time before busting through the 100m mark late in the game. 

He exploited an overlap on a short side with a superb pass for Vunivalu's first try, pushed through the middle of the field before earning a penalty late in the tackle count prior to the try to Tohu Harris and exposed any Titans weakness to its greatest extent. 

His ability to control a game of rugby league often goes unnoticed by the casual observer but it was there for all to see in clear sight on Sunday.

Titans vow not to wallow after 'flogging'

Both Titans coach Neil Henry and captain William Zillman referred to it as "good old fashioned flogging" but Henry says it is how they now react that will define the character of this Gold Coast team. Praised for their spirit in narrow losses to the Broncos, Sharks, Dragons and Bulldogs in the past month, Titans players appeared to drop their heads midway through the first half, showing no sign of the comebacks that have been a trademark of their season to date.

"We were never in that game," was Henry's blunt assessment.

"It's how you react to the fact that you keep plugging away at what you know works and then you try and turn it around. Our confidence is pretty good about being in contests and being able to score some points but not today.

"That's a hiding and we don't need to dwell on it but we need to react to it. It can't be something that weighs us down too much because it's gone."

Zillman said a lot of wind was taken out of his side's sails with the opportunistic try to Cheyse Blair in the sixth minute and the procession of Storm tries that followed in the first half.

"I thought we looked tired at times," Zillman said.

"I thought early on the energy was outstanding but when you are putting that much energy into a game and we were winning the field position battle, they then score a relatively lucky try and then compound that with two more very quick tries.

"It's another week where the opposition have got off to a very good start and teams like Melbourne don't let you back into the game."


Storm subs fill the breach

This was not a win by a Storm side unaffected by injuries and with a cohesive unit boasting slick combinations. Melbourne lost three outside backs (Marika Koroibete, Richard Kennar and Young Tonumaipea) from the team that demolished the Warriors 42-0 less than a week earlier, their places taken by Cheyse Blair and two guys in Ben Hampton and Tohu Harris who normally play in the halves and back row respectively.

It was a disruption Neil Henry said he had hoped the Titans could exploit but made for a very happy coach in his 350th game in charge of the Storm.

"That's an area (the outside backs) we're really struggling in personnel wise but I can't fault the effort that the guys are putting in each and every week. Today's result was because of that," said Bellamy, his team joining the Broncos, Cowboys and Sharks in a four-way tie at the top of the Telstra Premiership.

"Our edges have changed each and every week and we've got guys in our centres at the moment that are not centres so to be able to defend like that with the lack of experience in those positions has been a really big effort.

"I couldn't be prouder of the effort they're putting in and I can't remember the last time I was as proud of them. It's been nine weeks now and that's why we are where we are, because of the effort."

Records go by the wayside

The Storm achieved a milestone of their own and inflicted another one upon the Titans with their 38-0 demolition at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.

Although the margin was short of the record 50-6 defeat between these teams from the Titans' inaugural season in 2007, the zero scoreline for the Titans represented the first time they had failed to register points in 116 games on the Gold Coast.

The second unblemished defensive display in the space of six days also represented a first for the Storm. Having defeated the Warriors 42-0 on Anzac Day last Monday, Sunday's clean sheet marked the first time they had kept the opposition scoreless two weeks in a row.