Melbourne Storm has staked its claim as a genuine premiership threat by bursting into the NRL?s top four in sensational fashion tonight, annihilating the Penrith Panthers 66-14 at Olympic Park.
A hat-trick to fullback Steve Turner and a dominant display by NSW Origin discards Matt Orford and Scott Hill helped the Storm record its highest ever score at Olympic Park and dispatch the reigning premier with an eleven tries-to-three victory.
After trailing by ten points early in the first half Melbourne exploded in the final term piling on 48 points to four in an amazing second half performance that ended in the home side inflicting Penrith?s worst defeat since 1973.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy paid tribute to his side?s persistence after Melbourne conceded the first two tries of the match only to score the next 66 and romp in its greatest ever win over the Panthers.
?It was obviously a good win but we got off to a bit of a rocky start. I think Penrith played really good in that first twenty minutes and we were under the pump a little bit,? Bellamy explained.
?To come back like we did was great, I had a quick look at the stats from the second half and I don?t think I?ve seen too much like that, I think we had 24 sets and we completed 21.
?I don?t think I?ve ever seen that at first-grade level before?we were very happy with the win and very happy with the way they played.?
Skipper Stephen Kearney highlighted the Storm?s depth with some of the newer faces in the club setting up the win.
?To say we were going to win by that amount in the first half, I don?t think anyone would have predicted that,? Kearney said.
?I just think we were very professional?I was very proud of our young players tonight, Steve Turner and Cooper Cronk come on a did a fantastic job for us and even an old fella had his best game of the year in ?Howey? (Rodney Howe).?
Bellamy was particularly pleased to see a ruthless side to the Storm?s play - something that has been missing so far this year.
?They were great tonight so hopefully we realise that when we?ve got a team down the things that we?ve got to do to keep them down,? Bellamy added.
?We did that tonight so hopefully it?s a learning experience for us and we?ll be able to use that again down the track.?
Turner, soaking up the pressure of replacing regular fullback Billy Slater, who is in camp with the Maroons, scored in the 60th, 64th and 73rd minutes.
It was in stark contrast to his opening effort, which saw him spill a high ball early in the contest. The mistake put his team under plenty of pressure and the Panthers capitalised, scoring through former Storm centre Paul Whatuira.
Panthers lock Trent Waterhouse sliced through the Storm defence soon after, following a timely offload from five-eighth Amos Roberts, giving the Panthers a handy 10-0 lead after just 15 minutes.
But the home side hit back through winger Matt King. Continuing his good form after returning from a recent elbow injury, the Country representative recorded his fourth try in three weeks in the 19th minute.
Five minutes later, David Kidwell continued the fight-back, crashing over from close range and handing the Storm the lead for the first time of the night.
Ben MacDougall then scored just ten minutes short of halftime. Orford kicked his third from the sideline, making himself the first ever Melbourne player to record 600 first-grade points and giving the Storm an 18-10 buffer at the break.
MacDougall continued to make an impact in the second term, starting what was one of the Storm?s best tries of the season. Cooper Cronk finished off the 70-metre break, which included a magical no-look inside flick pass from Hill.
Orford converted another two points before Ryan Hoffman scored under the posts after receiving a brutal blow across the head from Richard Fa?aoso 20 seconds earlier.
Two tries to Turner then followed, making it 44-10.
King scored his second for the night after a perfectly executed one-two with MacDougall.
Hill then picked up the scraps from a spilt high ball, scoring right of the uprights and handing Melbourne a remarkable 54-10 advantage. Turner scored again as did Cronk, completed the mesmerising performance.
The Panthers finished with a consolation try to Trent Clayton, but the party was well and truly over for last year?s premier.
Kearns will see a specialist on Saturday after suffering a nasty graze to his left eye following a clash with Penrith substitute Shane Rodney early in the second term.
DETAILS STORM 66 Tries: King 2, Kidwell 1, MacDougall 1, Cronk 2, Hoffman 1, Turner 3, Hill 1 Goals: Orford 11/12 (1 pen. goal)
PANTHERS 14 Tries: Whatuira 1, Waterhouse 1, Clayton 1 Goals: Roberts 1/3Like