Storm flex premiership muscle in Broncos rout
Melbourne Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster has put together the perfect State of Origin audition, guiding his side to a commanding 42-12 win over the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
With Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters watching on, Munster put on a show, playing a part in two tries and threatening Brisbane's defence with every carry.
Facing the daunting prospect of an Origin decider without champion five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, Walters could do a lot worse than picking Munster in the No.6 jersey for the Maroons in Game Three.
Arguably Melbourne's best on Friday night, Munster helped the Storm score three tries in the first 16 minutes.
The Broncos only had themselves to blame, with Wayne Bennett's men making error after error to only complete three of their first seven sets.
By half-time Brisbane had only just recovered to lift their completion rate to a poor 57 per cent and it showed on the scoreboard, with the Broncos trailing 20-6.
Brisbane needed things to start going their way in the second 40 minutes and Melbourne helped their cause in the early minutes of the second stanza.
In fact, it was a disastrous start to the second half for the Storm, losing Tohu Harris to the sin bin in the 46th minute after he held James Roberts back during a kick chase.
Brisbane failed to make Melbourne pay, with halfback Ben Hunt throwing a forward pass to Jonus Pearson who would have scored with ease.
However, the Broncos managed to score through David Mead while Harris was still off the field in the 53rd minute. It may have been Mead's try, but Benji Marshall and Alex Glenn can take the credit, combining to get within metres of the try line before Tautau Moga found Mead down the short side. Jordan Kahu added the extras from the sideline to leave his side trailing 20-12.
The Storm snuffed out any chance of a Brisbane comeback in the 58th minute, with Cooper Cronk throwing a beautiful ball to Curtis Scott to put the young centre over for his second try of the night. Melbourne scored with their next set as Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and Billy Slater combined to make it 32-12.
Cameron Smith got in on the fun in the 64th minute, scoring his first try of the season to blow the lead out to 36-12.
The Storm put the icing on the cake on the stroke of full-time, with Addo-Carr intercepting a Hunt pass and scoring under the posts. Smith put the conversion over the black dot to give his side a dominant 30-point victory.
Melbourne ended the match much like they started, opening the scoring in the 4th minute after Hunt pushed for one offload too many. The Storm pushed wide after the mistake from Hunt and Suliasi Vunivalu dived over for a try in the corner. Smith failed to convert from the sideline, leaving the score at 4-0.
Things got worse for Brisbane in the 7th minute when they lost Josh McGuire to concussion, and minutes later Korbin Sims knocked on as he reached out over the try line.
The Storm again made the Broncos pay for their error-riddled start, with Will Chambers offloading to Addo-Carr for the former Wests Tiger to score. Smith added the extras to make it 10-0 after 15 minutes of play.
Seconds later, Munster split Brisbane's defence off the restart to put the Broncos further on the back foot before Scott strolled over untouched for the Storm's third four-pointer of the night. Although Smith could not convert, Melbourne had jumped out to a 14-point lead after just 16 minutes.
Brisbane got one back in the 21st minute, with Hunt steamrolling Storm fullback Slater from close range. Kahu had no issues with the conversion attempt to cut the deficit to eight points.
It was short-lived joy for the Broncos with Vunivalu soon scoring his second in spectacular fashion, latching onto a pinpoint cross-field kick from Munster to extend Melbourne's lead. Smith kicked truly to restore the Storm's 14-point lead in the 30th minute.
That is how it stayed heading into half-time after a poor 40 minutes from the Broncos saw them complete just 57 per cent of their sets.
It didn't get any better for Brisbane in the second half as the Storm showed their class and extended their lead at the top of the NRL ladder.
Melbourne have not lost at Suncorp Stadium since 2009 and it showed as they notched up another big victory at their home away from home.
Melbourne Storm 42 (Vunivalu 2, Scott 2, Addo-Carr 2, Smith, Slater tries; Smith 5 goals) defeated Brisbane Broncos 12 (Hunt, Mead tries; Kahu 2 goals). Holden Cup: Brisbane Broncos 48 defeated Melbourne Storm 18. Crowd: 41,471
NRL.com unofficial points: 3 points: Cameron Munster. 2 points: Cam Smith. 1 point Billy Slater.