Manly have ended their hunt for a win over one of the NRL’s top eight in impressive fashion, brushing Melbourne aside to record a 36-30 win on Thursday.
Des Hasler’s side had lost their previous seven games against teams sitting in the finals spots but obliterated an out-of-sorts Melbourne in front of 8,618 fans at Brookvale Oval.
Manly had a 36-12 lead with 15 minutes left but took their foot off the gas and allowed the Storm to score four unanswered tries in the final quarter of an hour.
Melbourne were without talismanic five-eighth Cameron Munster due to a shoulder injury but at times it looked like Craig Bellamy was missing his entire starting side.
The Storm played too laterally, made basic errors and the area of biggest concern for Bellamy was his side’s lack of defensive cohesion as they lost ground to Penrith in the race for the minor premiership.
“After 60 minutes we got what we deserved,” Bellamy said. “We sparked a bit at the end but that’s too late.
“I was really disappointed in our defence and some individual performances weren’t up to scratch.
“They were soft tries they scored by just going through us, that’s not good enough.”
The return of Ryan Papenhuyzen will be some solace to the Storm, even if the fullback struggled in his comeback game after being sidelined since round nine.
The electric No.1 only came to the fore once the game was dead, chiming in with a late double after a few eventful moments in the first half including a grubber kick that was picked off by Manly’s Tolatau Koula, who raced 90 metres to score the game’s opening try.
Papenhuyzen showed glimpses of his old self when he set up Nick Meaney, but was twice caught out of position by Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.
The first was for a 40/20 kick on third tackle with Jason Saab crossing on the next set and the second stemmed from a mix-up between him and Meaney over who would diffuse a Cherry-Evans bomb.
Christian Tuipulotu scored off the back of that blunder and Saab also grabbed a second just before half-time.
Koula, Haumole Olakau’atu and Morgan Harper all helped strengthen Manly’s lead after the break, with Brandon Smith’s try on his 100th NRL game the only resistance Melbourne could muster.
Cherry-Evans nudged a penalty with a quarter of an hour left with the Storm putting some respectability on the scoreline with tries for Papenhuyzen, Justin Olam and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
“With the disappointment of where we were a few weeks ago, we knew we had to win tonight, and in doing so, beat the Melbourne Storm which is no easy feat,” Hasler said.
“Some parts of it weren’t pretty but there’s a lot there that’s really positive. That’s what we’ll take out of it.”