Melbourne have humiliated Sydney Roosters in a record-breaking 46-0 win to all but end the Tricolours’ finals hopes and lift the Storm to the top of the NRL ladder.
Cooper Cronk scored two second-half tries to lead the Storm rout after the visitors led 18-0 at halftime at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night before 8,499 fans.
Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu claimed three tries for the Storm, with fullback Cameron Munster also starring for Melbourne.
The loss was the Roosters’ biggest-ever loss at Allianz Stadium, Melbourne’s biggest win over them, and the first time the Storm have kept the Tricolours scoreless.
The Roosters now need to win at least nine of their last 11 games to qualify for the finals, which is a highly unlikely proposition given their form.
The huge winning margin will likely keep Melbourne at the top of the NRL ladder after round 14 on percentages, even if Cronulla defeat North Queensland on Monday.
The Roosters were minus stars Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Dylan Napa, and the gap in class was evident, even after Storm playmaker Blake Green was ruled out with a calf injury.
Vunivalu scored his first try – his eighth in seven games – in the eighth minute to open the scoring for the visitors.
He followed with his second soon after, tiptoeing down the touchline to put the home side ahead 12-0 after an eye-catching sideline conversion from captain Cameron Smith, who slipped over as he kicked the ball but still put it over the black dot.
One of the Roosters’ few try-scoring chances came in the 29th minute when Blake Ferguson tripped over and spilt the Steeden with the tryline beckoning after cleanly picking up a Jake Friend kick.
The Storm made the Roosters pay for that mistake when Cronk put Kevin Proctor over a minute later to put the lead out to 18-0.
The second half was little more than a procession for the Storm as Cheyse Blair crossed in the 55th minute and Cronk scored in the 58th and 64th.
Munster scored a deserved four-pointer in the 68th minute before Vunivalu claimed his third to finish the rout five minutes from fulltime.
In Ben Cummins’ first match officiating the Roosters since coach Trent Robinson’s extraordinary Anzac Day spray of the referee, the home side won the penalty count 5-4.
MORE TO COME