After watching Jahrome Hughes produce a man-of-the-match performance against the Warriors, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy declared the Kiwi halfback has the capability to take his game to another level.
Hughes lumped further pain on the Warriors as he led the Storm to a dominant 42-20 triumph over the New Zealand side in the annual Anzac Day clash at AAMI Park.
Hughes turned down a massive offer from the Warriors to return home earlier this season when signing a new three-year deal with the reigning premiers and his decision looked justified judging by his starring role on Sunday night.
The in-form halfback ran for 115 metres, made three line breaks and dished off four try assists in the first half alone as the Storm won for the fourth time on the trot and maintained their excellent recent record against their trans-Tasman rivals.
"I thought he was our best player quite easily actually," Bellamy said post-match.
"That first half hour, he had spiders on him.
Match: Storm v Warriors
Round 7 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
"His kicking game was good, his defence was really good and he has been a real key for us this year."
Bellamy said Hughes continues to grow in confidence, something he thinks the halfback lacked when he first arrived in Melbourne as a fullback in 2017.
"When he first started in that position (halfback) he was probably pushed a little by us and probably lacked a bit of confidence," Bellamy noted.
"His big improvement has come from getting more and more confident and confident in himself in what he can do.
Hughes holds it up for Kaufusi
"I think he doubted what he could do early in his career at halfback, but now he seems to find a way of getting things done.
"He is a lot more braver to test his skills right now and when he does that he can go to another level."
The Storm barely got out of first gear against the undermanned Warriors, with Hughes steering Craig Bellamy's well-oiled machine around the park and Josh Addo-Carr and Reimis Smith scoring doubles in the absence of Ryan Papenhuyzen to help catapult the premiership fancies inside the top four at the expense of the Roosters.
The Warriors tried hard and even had veteran winger Ken Maumalo score a hat-trick, but with experienced duo Tohu Harris and Peta Hiku on the sidelines through injury, skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck playing in an uncustomed role on the wing and two youngsters in their starting side, it was always going to be a mountain to climb away from home.
The loss drops Nathan Brown's side outside the top eight and leaves them vulnerable ahead of an important round eight clash against the rejuvenated Cowboys next weekend.
Hughes at it again, this time Hynes scores
Hughes set up George Jennings for the opener in the third minute and then did likewise for Felise Kaufusi, Nicho Hynes and Smith shortly after as the Storm jumped out to a 20-4 advantage inside 25 minutes.
The Warriors were undermanned partly due to the unlucky sin-binning of Josh Curran for a late hit on Jennings that ruled the in-form winger out for the match with concussion, but nothing could have stopped Hughes and the Storm in this kind of mood as Smith scored his second to make it 26-4 at the break.
The visitors had to be first to score in the second half and they duly got themselves back in the contest courtesy of well-travelled journeyman Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Munny-ball to Addo-Carr
With all eyes on Tuivasa-Sheck out wide and debutants Reece Walsh (fullback) and Rocco Berry (centre) in the backs, it was left to Murdoch-Masila to help get the visitors back in the contest as he barged over from close range.
But that only sprung the Melbourne juggernaut into action again, as Justin Olam and Addo-Carr (twice) got in on the act to push the margin out to 32 with 10 minutes remaining.
Maumalo crossed twice in the dying stages to complete his hat-trick, but it was too little too late as the Storm registered yet another impressive home victory.