A silver lining has appeared on the injury cloud hovering over the Melbourne Storm: Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted a string of injuries had forced him to blood the 20-year-old this year.
But he is sure glad he did after Vunivalu bagged yet another double to inspire an injury-ravaged Storm’s 38-0 win over the Titans at a wet Gold Coast on Sunday.
In his first three games Vunivalu has scored six tries.
He is the only active NRL player to have achieved the feat.
Bellamy needed him to fire after losing Young Tonumaipea (knee), Marika Koroibete (ankle) and Richard Kennar (foot) before kickoff.
Melbourne (7-2 record) were already reeling from the loss of Will Chambers (foot) and Billy Slater (shoulder).
Yet the dramatically reshuffled backline still piled on seven unanswered tries – even scoring with 12 men when Kenny Bromwich was sinbinned in the 55th minute for throwing a punch in a melee.
The Storm provided a fitting tribute to Bellamy who marked his 350th game at the helm.
It was the fifth straight loss for Gold Coast.
It was also the first time the Titans had been held scoreless at home in their history.
Bellamy admitted he had major concerns about their backline depth but could not be more pleased with Vunivalu’s progress.
“It (his debut) was forced on us to be honest,” Bellamy said of the Fijian who has a rugby background.
“We knew he had a lot of ability but what he’s shown is more than what we thought.
“He’s only played about 20 or 30 games of rugby league in his life.
“He makes the hard things look easy at times and other times the easy things look hard.
“But we are very happy with how he is going.
“If he gets a decent run without injury we might have a player on our hands.”
Vunivalu crashed down the right sideline in the 27th minute to help Melbourne grab a 20-0 halftime lead.
He effortlessly jumped over the Titans defence to collect a Cooper Cronk cross field kick in the 46th minute to complete his double.
It was just short of Melbourne’s biggest win over the Gold Coast – a 50-6 blowout in 2007, the Titans’ foundation year.
The Storm have now racked up an 80-0 points differential over two games in six days.
Bromwich was marched when he threw a punch in a second half melee that broke out after the Storm forward hit Titans playmaker Amos Roberts late.
A 12-man Melbourne still crossed when halfback Cooper Cronk crossed for his second try in the 59th minute.
Titans coach Neil Henry offered no excuses after welcoming back halfback Ash Taylor (rib) and winger Nathan Davis (shoulder) from injury.
“It was an old fashioned flogging,” he said.