The Melbourne Storm rolled into the NRL Telstra Premiership Finals with a 32-6 win over the Raiders, who lamented another season of what might have been.
Fast start a feature
The Melbourne Storm continued their theme of recent weeks – blowing away teams with quick tries early.
Their three tries in the space of 20 minutes effectively killed off any chance of a Raiders comeback, something Storm coach Craig Bellamy was proud of.
"We got off to a really good start," he said.
"I thought our attack in the first 20-25 minutes was really good. We didn't quite get to that height again for the rest of the game, but to just have the Raiders score six points against us, I was really happy with our defence."
Try-scoring Suli is simply the best
Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored his 23rd try of the season and reached a new milestone as the leading try-scorer for two years in a row.
Bellamy continues to be impressed by the Fijian flyer.
"I thought he was one of our better players out there tonight, so he's certainly produced above expectations," he said.
"To win the try-scoring record two years in a row – in his first two years – is certainly a remarkable achievement. It just goes to show what a special player he is and what a special player he is for our team.
"He's a really good kid that works hard, he's really respectful and when he gets out on that footy field, he's flat out from the start to the end."
Errors the story of the Raiders' season
They only completed 67 per cent of their sets against the Storm, and Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was left to lament another one that got away.
"They got away on us early and it's pretty hard to get back into it," he said.
"They're a good footy team and seemed at the start they wanted it more than us."
There was no shortage of effort – the visitors managed 15 offloads – something Stuart could take away from the game.
"They're always trying. It's never a problem with our boys."
"We weren’t as good as we can be, they were very good. When they got out to 12, 18 or 20 points, you're always going to have a tough evening."
Smith equals Lockyer's record
Storm skipper Cameron Smith equalled Darren Lockyer's all-time NRL game record of 355 matches tonight but says it wasn’t a huge factor leading into the contest.
"I didn't really think a whole heap about it this week, equalling Locky's game's record," he said.
"I mainly focused on what my job was for the team and what I needed to do. [There was] Cooper and Nelson's [milestones] playing his 50th game for club, and also keeping momentum for this week.
"There's going to be a little bit of talk about the game next week – but we've just got to approach it like every other game, well that's the way I will approach it."
Storm into finals unscathed
Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted he just wanted the match to finish without any injury concerns ahead of the finals and that's what transpired.
Second-rower Tohu Harris was placed on report for a high fend on Aidan Sezer in the only worry for the Storm ahead of their home final against the fourth-place finishing Parramatta Eels.