Sydney Roosters power past embattled Storm
Over-powered and outplayed, the Melbourne Storm were monstered by reigning premiers Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Once again the Storm paid full price for a handful of errors in defence and their inability to create regular scoring chances without injured playmakers Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater as the Roosters completed a 32-12 win.
But more concerning for the Storm was their inability to keep out the rampant Roosters in the final minutes of the first half for the second-straight week with two Roosters tries coming in the shadow of the main break.
The home side had a lucky start with Young Tonumaipea dropping a James Maloney kick in-goal but it bounced backwards and dead.
In attack the home side looked more in step with each other with Ben Hampton moving to halfback, Cameron Smith to five-eighth and Kurt Mann into fullback.
Mahe Fonua earned another start in the centres in place of Mann, who impressed as Slater's replacement. Hampton put a dangerous grubber kick into goal on the Storm's first serious foray but it rolled out of bounds.
Two consecutive penalties against the Storm allowed the Roosters to push deep into attack and score their first try in the sixth minute with James Maloney finding Anthony Minichiello on the far right wing, Maloney kicked wide on the conversion making it 4-0.
The Roosters could have been in again for some spirited defence from the Storm with Fonua coming up with a loose ball after repeated off-loads from the visitors.
A breakaway run from Kevin Proctor put Storm inside the Roosters 20-metre line in the 19th minute but Will Chambers' ill-fated decision to take it from dummy half and try a quick kick saw the visitors recover the ball.
Roosters enforcer Frank-Paul Nuuausala threatened to turn the match into an all-in brawl after he and teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves landed late shots on a Storm's Bryan Norrie on 21 minutes.
A minor melee ensued with the Nuausala and Norrie both given 10-minute penalties and the Storm being awarded the ball.
Mann looked to have scored the Storm's first try on 25 minutes but the pass was correctly adjudged to be forward and the score ruled out.
Another Roosters' offload gave them their second try with 10 minutes left in the first half after Jake Friend took the offload and setup Mitchell Pearce for an easy score. Maloney's kick made it 10-0.
The young Storm defence faded in the final minutes off the half with Roosters interchange Remi Casty scoring under the posts following several repeated attacks, Maloney was again onsong as Roosters held a 16-0 advantage.
Both sides had erroneous starts to the second half with two sloppy Roosters' penalties leaving the Storm in position for their first score but a poor play the ball from Storm forward Mitch Garbutt saw the Roosters get it straight back.
Just minutes later Garbutt suffered a sad end to his day bumping knees with George Rose and crumpling to a heap on the ground with a suspected medial ligament strain - he is expected to miss multiple weeks with the injury.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy played his "super-sub" card early in the second half introducing Ben Roberts to halfback and shuffling the rest of his backs. Roberts made the move look a great one when his flat pass set up a bullish Fonua for the Storm's first try since their win over South Sydney on May 16.
Smith's conversion made it 16-6 with 50 minutes gone but powerful runner Daniel Tupou burst through the middle of the Storm's defence to have his side within reach of the line.
Then Roger Tuivasa-Sheck turned on a glorious step on the right flank to almost break the ankles of Tonumaipea and leaving room dive in for a try as Maloney's miss left it 20-6.
Sonny Bill-Williams stepped off his right foot and capped off an impressive day with a try on 59 minutes with Maloney's conversion made it 26-6.
Roberts was again the instigator of the Storm's second try when his risky offload found Mann who faked a pass wide then cut back to a middle gap and scored his second try at second level.
Smith's conversion made it 26-12 with 11 minutes left and the sniff of another miraculous Storm comeback but while their spirit seemed willing, without Cronk and Slater their side just wasn't able.
Maloney and Minichiello decided on one more score before full-time with the little half breaking free from Friend's pass then finding the Roosters fullback for his second try.
The combination of a Sunday afternoon game, free entry for children and no Melbourne AFL games until twilight gave the Storm an off-field win with a crowd of 16,757 turning out.