Manly's premiership hopes have copped a huge blow with Tom Trbojevic's season in severe doubt as Melbourne wrapped up the 2019 minor premiership with a dominant 36-6 win at Lottoland on Saturday night.
The Storm ran in three first-half tries to race to an 18-0 lead but the game was tarnished by a potentially season-ending injury to Trbojevic, who lasted just nine minutes before leaving the field clutching at his left arm.
Trbojevic was wrong footed by Josh Addo-Carr and threw out his arm as the Storm winger headed for the tryline for the game’s opening try.
Melbourne produced a near clinical opening half despite a physical contest that included two brutal hits from Jorge Taufua, who did everything possible to inspire the Manly outfit after the loss of Trbojevic.
But the Sea Eagles right edge of Moses Suli and Brad Parker appeared vulnerable in defence with Addo-Carr and Justin Olam sailing through to score tries after the Storm heaped enormous pressure on the home side with six minutes of repeat sets.
Tom Trbojevic injured in trying to stop Addo-Carr try
Nelson Asofa-Solomona set the tone early for the visitors with a charging run before he carried four Sea Eagles defenders over the line for the third try.
Manly hit back in the shadows of half-time when skipper Daly Cherry-Evans laid on a try for Taniela Paseka with a deft short ball but the loss of bench forward Morgan Boyle with a suspected broken hand early in the second half put a dampener on hopes of a comeback.
The greasy conditions in inclement weather made ball handling difficult as the game got into the latter stages of the contest.
Papenhuyzen uses that trademark speed
Melbourne extended their lead in the 54th minute when Ryan Papenhuyzen placed a deft kick wide to Addo-Carr who showed enough awareness to keep the ball in for Olam to cross for a double.
An error from Taufua close to the line enabled Melbourne to push their advantage out to 18 points via a penalty goal.
The game looked to be winding down with the Storm in cruise mode until both sides came together to resume hostilities after a high shot by Will Chambers on Jack Gosiewski.
Chambers was sent to the sin bin and things turned ugly when a Manly fan hurled abuse at the Storm centre as he made his way up the tunnel. The fan was ejected from the ground.
Melbourne made light of being a man down to extend their lead through a try to Papenhuyzen before Olam completed his hat-trick in the 78th minute.
The victory cements Melbourne's third minor premiership in four years but there was concern for Cameron Munster in the dying minutes as he left the field with a shoulder concern.
Match: Sea Eagles v Storm
Round 24 -
Venue: 4 Pines Park, Sydney