In a cold and windy Mt Smart, the Storm were at their clinical best as the dominated the New Zealand Warriors 32-10.
After their tightly fought contest on Anzac day, the crowd at Mount Smart stadium were expecting another hard-fought encounter but instead witnessed a second-half blowout by the table-topping Melbourne Storm.
All of the Storms origin stars were named to play in this match with the only personnel change coming from the Warriors with Patrick Herbert being ruled out of the game and replaced by Gerard Beale.
The Storm were first to strike with Cameron Smith kicking a penalty goal to take a 2-0 lead. The Warriors looked threatening but lacked cohesion as their passes found the touchline instead of the intended player as well as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Peta Hiku almost bumping into each other when trying to catch a line drop out gifting the Storm a reprieve.
The Warriors finally managed to get some passes to stick when Kodi Nikorima decided to the run on the last tackle linking with Peta Hiku who was able to put Ken Maumalo over in the corner, Issac Luke took over kicking duties in Herbert’s absence but failed to convert giving the Warriors a 4-2 lead.
Nikorima scored himself moments later when he pounced on a Blake Green grubber kick, Luke’s conversion pushed their lead out to 10-2.
The match became a tug of war as neither side was able to get the upper hand. The Storms massive forward pack lead by the powerful Nelson Asofa-Solomona started to make dents in the Warriors defensive line and finally struck gold when Cameron Smith changed direction from the ruck with an excellent play that put Jahrome Hughes over in the corner, Smith’s conversion saw the Storm reduce the Warriors lead to 10-8 as the first half ended.
The Storm refusing to be rattled by the Warriors spirited first-half effort game out of the gates quickly when Hughes, taking advantage of a poor defensive read by Luke, crossed for his second try of the evening, Smiths conversion took the Storm to a 14-10 lead.
The Warriors struggled to regain composure, and it showed when they appeared lost on attack, failing to get themselves into scoring positions and making unforced errors while inside the Storms half.
The Storm went from strength to strength as they started to find success with quick runs out of dummy half playing at a tempo that the Warriors struggled to keep up with. This lead to a dishevelled defensive line which the Storm took no time exploiting when Suliasi Vunivalu scored off a set play down the right edge, Smiths conversion pushed the Storm to a 20-10.
The Warriors showed some fight and were awarded repeat sets on Storms try line thanks in part to some poor discipline from Melbourne which resulted in Christian Welch being sin-binned. While having the territory and an automatic overlap the Warriors could not convert their opportunities into points and let the Storm off the hook when they squandered their best-attacking chance with Gerard Beale forced over the sideline.
The Storm went right back into action, and despite being a man down, they marched up the field with ease with Jesse Bromwich diving on a Smith grubber to give them their fourth try of the evening and a 26-10 lead.
The Warriors continued to struggle, and as the home crowd started marching out of the stadium, the Storm slotted one last penalty goal and ended the night and the match with a final try to Marion Seve to hand the Storm their eighth victory in a row against the New Zealand side.
The Storm’s performance was outstanding, ending the match with a 92% completion rate. They attacked with purpose, and despite being behind at the break, they were always in the contest.
To defeat the Storm, you need to bring your A-game and rely on a few errors but if Melbourne continues this level of form for the remainder of the season I struggle to see many sides being able to defeat them.
Warriors lack attack
While the Storm put on a clinic with the ball in hand, the Warriors were struggling to get to their last tackle.
When the Storm started the second half strong, the Warriors appeared shell-shocked, and they resorted to one out running followed by throwing the ball out to one edge and then kicking to the opposite corner on the last or pushing a grubber through.
The Warriors needed to earn the right to test the edges by dominating up the middle, and they failed to do that, Blake Green’s last tackle options left a lot to be desired and he needs to bring some variety into his performance if the Warriors are to have a chance to get into the playoff hunt.
Storm forwards dominate
Melbournes forwards had an outstanding night in Auckland, running hard and setting the platform for Smith and Munster to probe the Warriors’ defensive line for weaknesses.
They also defended well in the middle, negating any chance the Warriors forwards had to get a roll on to unleash their explosive backline.
The Storm has a great mix of youth and experience in their pack, and this bodes well for their future.
Where to from here
The Warriors now have eight losses for the season, and the chance of an appearance in the playoffs seems unlikely.
The New Zealand side’s once exciting highlight reel style appears to be long forgotten, and the Warriors need to rediscover this if they wish to be competitive again.
Perhaps Stephen Kearney should start looking towards 2020 and bring Chanel Harris-Tavita in to replace Blake Green and give him some more first-grade experience and add a much-needed spark to the Warriors attack.
Melbourne Storm 32
Tries: Jahrome Hughes (2), Suliasi Vunivalu, Jesse Bromwich, Marion Seve
Goals: Cameron Smith 6/7
New Zealand Warriors 10
Tries: Ken Maumalo, Kodi Nikorims
Goals: Issac Luke 1/2
Storm: 1. Jahrome Hughes, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Marion Seve, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Brodie Croft, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane, 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Joe Stimson, 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 23. Christian Welch
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Peta Hiku, 18. Gerard Beale, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Blake Green, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Adam Blair, 14. Lachlan Burr, 15. Bunty Afoa, 16. Chris Satae, 17. Karl Lawton