THEY already had a top four spot all but sewn up but the Manly Sea Eagles made a statement to the rest of the top eight at Brookvale Oval tonight.
Their comprehensive 28-8 victory over last year's Premiers sent a message that the competition is wide open with the finals just a week away and they plan on having a say in who competes for the Grand Final.
Manly's right-hand side attack tore the Storm left edge to shreds with David Williams grabbing a hat-trick, Brett Stewart a double and Daly Cherry-Evans also crossing.
Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran told Fox Sports after the game despite the success they had down the right, it wasn't a pre-conceived plan.
"It just worked out that way. We've got some good combinations down that side and they pulled it off brilliantly tonight."
The 20-point win was set up in the opening stanza when the Sea Eagles raced out to a 20-0 lead after 29 minutes.
"We wanted to stick it to them and it came off the back of our D," Foran said.
In possibly their worst half of football for the year, the Storm completed just eight of 13 sets in the opening 40 and were lucky to find themselves only 16 points down at halftime with captain Cameron Smith conceding his side needed to be better leading into the finals.
"Tonight's very disappointing. We were well below our best. Manly were very good tonight and they got us in the first 40 minutes. You're kidding yourself if you turn up with our sort of attitude at Brookvale. It's a reality check for the boys."
The Eagles were dealt a blow just 70 seconds into the game when Jamie Buhrer suffered what appeared to be a rib cartilege injury in an unfortunate looking tackle. Ryan Hoffman and Ryan Hinchcliffe tried to wrestle him onto his back with the bottom half of his body going the opposite way to the top half.
After the resumption David Williams scored the first of his first-half hat-trick after a clever pass from Daly Cherry-Evans caught the Melbourne up-and-in defence napping.
Minutes later the Eagles extended their lead to double figures through Brett Stewart after a great straight-running line from his brother.
Two further tries to Williams in the lead-up to halftime almost scored in the exact same fashion put the Manly side out by a 20-point margin before the Storm's big three got their side fractionally back into the contest.
Smith and Cronk combined to send Slater in behind the markers before he kicked perfectly left-footed for winger Sisa Waqa to score in the corner in the shadows of the break.
The second half started in very similar fashion to the first, but Manly couldn't convert their pressure and field position into points with Melbourne making similar mistakes.
In the 50th minute George Rose had the chance to almost put the result beyond doubt when Daly Cherry-Evans jinked his way through the Melbourne defence, but the big prop couldn't quite hang onto the ball over the line.
Manly got into the grind of the second half and Brett Stewart scored his second try of the night in the 64th minute to ensure there would be no Melbourne comeback.
Justin O'Neill scored a consolation try for the Storm a few minutes after Stewart crossed but that would be as good as it got for Craig Bellamy's men who will no doubt have some soul searching to do.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans topped off a masterfull game at halfback when he took advantage of another Melbourne error just before fulltime.
Glenn Stewart knocked the arm of Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith, who had a game to forget, before Brett Finch couldn't reel the pass in. Cherry-Evans put his boot to the ball and won the race to the line to cap off a commanding Manly victory.
"We were up for this one, we wanted to cement that top four spot - really proud of the boys," Foran said.
Next week the Eagles tackle the Panthers while the Storm return to Melbourne to clash with the Titans.