Broncos hit by perfect Storm
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said before the match that his side is where he expected them to be but it's very doubtful he envisioned the 48-6 drubbing the Broncos suffered at the hands of the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
It was Brisbane's largest ever loss at Suncorp Stadium, eclipsing the 56-18 record loss to the New Zealand Warriors in 2013.
The win takes the Storm to the top of the ladder and puts the Broncos back to sixth, with Brisbane's aspirations of a top four finish looking more and more unlikely.
Melbourne have now won 10 of their last 11 matches against the Broncos and incredibly they have only lost at Suncorp Stadium on three occasions throughout their history.
Cooper Cronk was the star for the Storm, racking up four try assists in the first half and completely outclassing Brisbane in the process.
Playing against six of his Queensland Maroons teammates, he and captain Cameron Smith showed no mercy in the dominant win.
Suliasi Vunivalu continued his stunning rookie season in the NRL as he scored a hat-trick – tormenting the Broncos in the process.
After leading 30-6 at the break, the second half started much like the first as Marika Koroibete pounced on a Blake Green kick to score under the posts in the 45th minute. Smith made no mistake with his sixth conversion of the night and Melbourne looked in complete control.
Moments later, Melbourne lost second-row forward Tohu Harris to a rib injury that ruled the 24-year-old out for the match.
Cronk accumulated his fifth try assist of the night in the 65th minute as he kicked for Vunivalu. The 20-year-old flying Fijian leapt over Anthony Milford's head to take a spectacular catch and score his third try of the night. Smith could do no wrong with the boot as he converted from the sideline and saluted the Suncorp Stadium crowd – the score 42-6.
Brisbane's night went from bad to worse in the 68th minute as Cheyse Blair pounced on a Kodi Nikorima mistake to score his second try of the night. Smith continued his perfect night with the boot to make it a huge 48-6 scoreline.
It was 80 minutes of Melbourne dominance and the Storm started the match in ominous fashion, scoring with their first trip into Brisbane's 20, with Cronk finding Kevin Proctor with a beautiful ball that allowed the second-row forward to score next to the posts untouched. Smith converted and Melbourne jumped out to a 6-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Melbourne went back-to-back, crossing again in the 17th minute after a Jesse Bromwich line break. A huge overlap to the Storm's right followed, ending in a Ryan Morgan four-pointer, and in the process Brisbane lost Corey Oates to a bad head knock. Smith converted from near the right sideline and Melbourne suddenly led by 12 after 18 minutes.
Vunivalu continued the onslaught in the 22nd minute, with a brilliant 40 metre cross-field kick from Cronk finding him in the corner. Smith capped off the brilliant play, converting from the touchline and giving Melbourne an 18-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
Blair continued the assault for the Storm, running over the top of Lachlan Maranta and James Roberts to score Melbourne's fourth. Smith's perfect night with the boot stayed intact, converting from the left sideline to make it 24-0 after 28 minutes.
The Storm suffered their first setback of the game in the 32nd minute, with prop Jordan McLean failing a concussion test that ruled him out of the game.
Nikorima was left sitting under a high ball on the wing and Brisbane suffered the consequences, with Vunivalu soaring above him to take the ball. He scored an acrobatic try and Smith continued to do no wrong, kicking his fifth goal from as many attempts and extending the Storm's lead to 30-0 after 35 minutes.
The Broncos managed to get onto the scoreboard in the 38th minute, with Milford putting Roberts through a hole with an exceptional inside ball. Parker converted from straight in front – cutting the margin to 24.
That try was one high of many lows for Brisbane in the first half, with the Suncorp Stadium crowd left dead silent as the home side went into the break trailing 30-6.
Melbourne were clinical, putting on an exceptional display that sent shockwaves through the competition.
Melbourne Storm 48 (Vunivalu 3, Blair 2, Morgan, Proctor, Koroibete tries; Smith 8 goals) def. Brisbane Broncos 6 (Roberts try; Parker goal). Crowd: 44,519