Melbourne Storm gained a convincing 34-22 victory on Sunday over St George Illawarra Dragons in the top-of-the-table clash at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
The Storm led 22-4 at half-time and then pulled further ahead 34-4 in the second half before the Dragons, who were lacking their captain Gareth Widdop, mounted a spirited fightback late in the game to make the scoreline more respectable.
While the Dragons team was as published earlier in the week, the Storm came into the game with Joe Stimson playing on the bench and Ryley Jacks dropping out.
It took them nine minutes to score their first try when Billy Slater kicked early in the tackle count towards his winger Suliasi Vunivalu who scored in the corner, with Cameron Smith nailing the conversion.
And by the 25-minute mark they had scored three more converted tries through Josh Addo-Carr, who touched down twice, and a second for Vunivalu.
The Dragons had come close when Tim Lafai was held up over the line by Slater, but they finally got onto the scoreboard four minutes from half-time when Jason Nightingale crashed over for an unconverted try.
In the second half Slater touched down twice for the Storm to lead 34-4 after 55 minutes.
With his conversion from next to the uprights Cameron Smith became the leading goalkicker in Premiership history with his 943rd successful goal.
The Dragons responded when Nightingale dived over for his second before Melbourne were reduced to twelve men in the 65th minute when Cooper Cronk was sinbinned for a professional foul and the Dragons took advantage with Cameron McInnes scoring from dummy-half and Nightingale completing his hat-trick.
A minute from full-time Tariq Sims forced his way over the line to complete the scoring.
Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Kurt Mann, 7 Josh Mccrone, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Cameron Mcinnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell (C), 12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jack De Belin; Interchange: 14 Tariq Sims, 15 Leeson Ah Mau, 16 Hame Sele, 17 Taane Milne.
Tries: Nightingale 3, McInnes, Sims; Goals: Dugan
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Cheyse Blair, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (C), 10 Jordan Mclean, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenny Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane; Interchange: 14 Christian Welch, 15 Tim Glasby, 16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 18 Joe Stimson.
Tries: Vunavalu 2, Addo-Carr 2, Slater 2; Goals: Smith 5
A full review of all the weekend’s NRL action will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express