Melbourne Storm keep their strong record in the nation's capital intact, headed by a Suliasi Vunivalu hat-trick, as they defeat Canberra Raiders, 22-10, tonight at Canberra Stadium.
It is a similar script that has played out across the duration of Craig Bellamy's tenure. Melbourne sprung out the blocks, Vunivalu notched up a hat-trick within the first half-hour as they were too slick for a Raiders side bumbled through the game despite a Jarrod Croker double that saw them within striking distance.
Vunivalu, kept off the scoresheet in the season opener crossed for his fifth career hat-trick with a trio of slick movements from the Storm which typified their professional approach, which has them starting the season with two quite comfortable victories. Nelson Asofa-Solomona added an insurance score on the hour mark.
The scoreline ended up flattering for the home side. Melbourne churned through the sets in the opening half, 60% possession, and on every touch on the Raiders line looked like they could've blown it out much more, save for a few miscues.
Their slick work was shown in all three of Vunivalu's scores. The winger only had to bump off a defender for the opener, as the other two were simple walk-in tries from the hand and boot as Melbourne continued their impressive winning streak in the nation's capital.
For the Raiders, John Bateman continued his hot start to life in the NRL, cutting across the defensive line before setting up Croker's first try. The Englishman looked the most likely from the Green Machine to create chances, but after their impressive opener on the glitter strip, they met a brick wall called the Storm.
It seemed after a halftime spray from Ricky Stuart, the Raiders refocused themselves and Croker's try in the 47th gave them life. Raiders piled on some pressure in five consecutive sets but they chose the wrong option on most occasions which will continue to stoke the rumours of George Williams headed to the capital.
Melbourne did what they have done for a decade, absorbed the pressure then a counter attack from Felise Kaufusi gave them a platform. Later in the count, hulking forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona snuck across to make it 22-4 , and despite Croker crossing again, they travel home with the two points.