A sickening hit on star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen has marred Melbourne's 44-18 NRL win over a 12-man St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
The Storm (8-2 record) sealed their seventh straight victory but it came at a huge cost after Dragons centre Tyrell Fuimaono was sent off in the 11th minute for an ugly swinging arm that left fullback Papenhuyzen heavily concussed.
Papenhuyzen - the 2020 Clive Churchill Medallist - had made a welcome NRL return on Sunday after missing three weeks with a shoulder injury but he didn't last long in his comeback.
There were serious concerns for Papenhuyzen after he was left prone on the ground for minutes following the heavy shot on his jaw in the lead-up to a try scored by new-look Melbourne star Josh Addo-Carr.
However, the Storm gun appeared conscious when he was carefully placed on a stretcher and then taken off the field via medicab as shell-shocked teammates looked on.
Match: Storm v Dragons
Round 10 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Fuimaono was the second player to receive his marching orders this round following Canberra juggernaut Josh Papalii's send off in Saturday's comeback win over Canterbury.
It marked the first time since the infamous 2011 "Battle of Brookvale" that two players had been sent off in an NRL round.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said Papenhuyzen was unlikely to face the Raiders next week but was reluctant to discuss Fuimaono's tackle in detail.
"In the climate that we're playing in at the moment, it probably is [a send-off]," Bellamy said.
Fuimaono sent off for high shot Papenhuyzen
"But at the end of the day, that’s for other people to decide and I don't really want to comment on that."
Dragons mentor Anthony Griffin "wasn't surprised" by the Fuimaono decision but sought an explanation for another incident in which Josh McGuire was placed on report.
McGuire, who had already been sin-binned in the ninth minute for a high shot, was penalised for a 30th-minute hip-drop tackle on Addo-Carr that forced the star winger from the field with a knee complaint but he returned soon after.
"I don't understand that one," Griffin said.
"We don't coach him [McGuire] to do that. He doesn't know what a hip-drop is. You've got to be able to tackle someone and sometimes their legs are going to get tangled up if you tackle a bloke around the waist.
"I want to get some clarification on that one, but otherwise with the send-off, that's the mood [the officials] are in at the moment."
Bellamy said he'd seen tackles like McGuire's go unpunished this season but opined that Storm forward Max King copped a three-week ban for a similar act last year.
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Meanwhile, recently retired Melbourne legend Cameron Smith sat with Bellamy in the coach's box for the first time since hanging up his boots and provided sage advice.
"For a guy that's played 400 [NRL] games and 100 rep games or whatever, he knows a bit about the game," Bellamy said.
"He was very handy up there, actually. I'd like to him to be in there every week but that's probably not going to happen. But it was great to see him back in there."
Bellamy had some anxious moments as he looked to find someone to step up at fullback after Nicho Hynes went off for a HIA test.
Hynes started the game at five-eighth - relegating Ryley Jacks to the bench - on Sunday but was a ready made replacement for Papenhuyzen after filling in the past three weeks for the star No.1.
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Indeed he had filled in so admirably that Brisbane had expressed interest in the 24-year-old as they look to replace Storm-bound Xavier Coates in 2022 with Hynes having grabbed a total of seven try assists and eight line-break assists in seven games this season.
He impressed again when he passed his HIA test, rotating between pivot and No.1 to nab three try assists, two line breaks and four line-break assists as the floodgates opened for Melbourne after No.1 Matt Dufty helped the Dragons cut the halftime lead to 14-10 before sadly going down with a shoulder injury early in the second stanza.
The Storm scored six second-half tries as Addo-Carr sealed a hat-trick, marking the sixth time in seven games that they had scored 40 points or more in a match despite being without hooking duo Brandon Smith (suspension) and Harry Grant (hamstring) as well as star playmaker Cameron Munster (foot).
Sporting a new peroxide blond faux hawk, Addo-Carr hit the ground running after his last-round record six-try haul in Melbourne's 50-0 belting of South Sydney, drawing first blood when he crashed over in the 11th minute after Papenhuyzen was felled in the lead-up.
The Storm looked set to run away with the game when they kicked away 10-0 after makeshift hooker Kenny Bromwich crashed over in the 17th minute.
But the undermanned Dragons dug deep to not only hit back but threaten to claim a half-time lead.
Melbourne kicked ahead 14-4 when 18th man Dean Ieremia - injected into the game after Papenhuyzen's exit - scored within a minute of running on to the field.
Addo-Carr grabs another hat-trick
However, Dufty led a Dragons fightback by setting up hulking winger Mikaele Ravalawa's first-half double (20th and 33rd minutes) to cut the half-time deficit to 14-10 and was unlucky not to have three try assists.
Cody Ramsey - back from a rib injury - appeared to have scored in the 25th minute after latching on to a clever Dufty kick but the bunker ruled the Dragons winger's foot was in touch before crashing over.
Yet any hope of a Dragons miracle win appeared to dissolve when Dufty came off in the 44th minute nursing an AC joint (shoulder) complaint that threatens to sideline him for a couple of weeks.
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Ravalawa sealed his first hat-trick in the 62nd minute when the Dragons made the Storm pay for a Christian Welch error but it was too little, too late.
In his return game from suspension, Ravalawa was placed on report for a 32nd minute shoulder charge.
The Dragons (5-5 record) showed plenty of fight but were outclassed and outnumbered in a match in which they were keen to show they were a finals threat after faltering since their impressive 26-12 round five win over Parramatta, only ending a three-game losing streak with a last-round win over Canterbury.
In other injury news, Melbourne's replacement hooker Tyson Smoothy came off with a PCL knee injury in the second half.