Suliasi Vunivalu soars above the Broncos to score a hat-trick at Suncorp Stadium.

Broncos v Storm: Five key points

Cooper Cronk's class was evident early, the Broncos' backline woes continued, the Storm extended their stranglehold over Brisbane and Suliasi Vunivalu sets his sights on the rookie exploits of Israel Folau. 

Match report: Broncos hit by perfect Storm
Storm will rest stars post-Origin
Bennett believes Broncos improved
Vunivalu draws Folau-like comparisons

Cronk's class evident even before kick-off

Prior to kick-off Cooper Cronk high-fived every kid in the junior team that led the Storm onto the field on Friday night and then delivered a lesson in first-class halfback play to a stunned Broncos outfit.

The only players in the NRL who could currently be considered ahead of Cronk are his Maroons teammates Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston but few in the history of the game have been able to execute in the clinical fashion that Cronk has made look almost mundane.

The Broncos began the match with plenty of energy but as soon as Melbourne were in position to score Cronk orchestrated three scintillating tries in the space of seven minutes to virtually put the game beyond reach.

A gorgeous play short allowed Kevin Proctor to stroll through, he hit Ryan Morgan with a long-range pass after a Jesse Bromwich bust and then put in a pin-point kick for winger Suliasi Vunivalu to score his 14th of the season.

The loss of Corey Oates gave Cronk a target in Kodi Nikorima that he exploited in torturous fashion.

It was a 20-minute master class that few rugby league playmakers could ever hope to have matched.

He had four try assists by half-time and five 15 minutes from full-time, more than half the nine try assists he had compiled in the 14 games prior.

With the score at 48-6 and limping slightly he joined captain Cameron Smith with a well-earned early mark and likely the lead in the Dally M Medal race.

Broncos' backline woes continue

The reduction in interchanges this season has made injuries to outside backs an almost impossible burden to carry and the Broncos were once again cruelled midway through the first half.

Knocked out in trying to prevent the Ryan Morgan try in the 17th minute, the loss of Oates saw a mismatch between Nikorima and Suliasi Vunivalu and after two tries to the Fijian flyer, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was forced to try and stem the bleeding by shifting Darius Boyd to the wing in defence.

Last week in the loss to the Bulldogs the Broncos lost Tom Opacic in the first half and Greg Eden suffered a knee injury to join Jordan Kahu and Jack Reed on the injured list with Kahu and Reed at least expected to be back after next week's bye.

Vunivalu in rare air

In terms of a try-scoring strike-rate it ranks above greats of the game such as Harold Horder, Reg Gasnier and Johnny Graves and now Suliasi Vunivalu has Israel Folau's mark from his rookie season in 2007 in his sights.

Two perfectly placed Cooper Cronk kicks saw Vunivalu snare two first-half tries to extend his lead at the top of the try-scoring tally and the pair combined again 15 minutes from full-time, his 16 four-pointers coming in just 10 NRL games to date.

When Folau burst onto the scene almost a decade ago he scored 21 tries in 27 games in his rookie season and with eight games left in the regular season before finals it is hard to believe the 20-year-old won't make a new mark of his own.

And with one pink boot and one fluoro yellow, he's not scared of making a fashion statement either.

 


Storm extend stranglehold over Brisbane

Such has been their dominance in the past decade the Storm have a winning record against most teams in the Telstra Premiership but the lop-sided nature of their stranglehold over the Broncos is fast becoming the stuff of nightmares.

Friday night's 48-6 win was their 10th in their past 11 games against the Broncos and takes their overall record against one of the NRL's most powerful clubs to 26 wins from 38 games and 12 wins from 15 visits to Suncorp Stadium.

The 48-6 scoreline was the biggest home loss by the Broncos anywhere in Brisbane and was just shy of the 50-4 record loss to the Storm at Olympic Park, making a mockery of the bookmakers who sent the Broncos out as pre-game favourites.

If these two teams are to meet again in the finals later this season it is a mental hurdle the Broncos will find difficult to overcome.

Brisbane fans set the example again

Their team is struggling and many Queenslanders are still basking in the afterglow of another Origin Series win but again they turned up in incredible numbers to see the Broncos play a Storm team that has a strong following of its own in the Sunshine State.

For the third time in their past four visits to Suncorp Stadium the Storm helped to attract a crowd in excess of 40,000 with word going out an hour before kick-off that only those who already possessed a ticket need bother turning up to the stadium.

With NRL CEO Todd Greenberg sitting high in the Suncorp stands for the second time in nine days the 44,519 who turned out provided yet another wonderful advertisement for the game in Queensland at present.