Melbourne Storm half back Matt Orford has inspired his side to a comprehensive 34-6 victory over St George Illawarra Dragons at Olympic Park this afternoon.
With a stiff breeze at their backs in the first half, the Dragons battled for field position and possession and conceded the first try after just eight minutes.
Saints struck back with a try to centre Matt Cooper (14th minute) and a penalty goal (26th minute) but this was the final time the visitors would trouble the scoreboard.
With Orford and Scott Hill directing proceedings, winger Steve Turner scored the first of his two tries and the Storm continued their momentum. At half time they held a handy 12-6 lead.
Melbourne broke through again in the 63rd minute with an excellent try to Dustin Cooper in the corner. After that, the floodgates opened with tries to Ben MacDougall (66th minute), Turner (69th minute) and Orford picking up a well deserved try a few minutes before fulltime.
With all the Storm forwards dominating the ruck, there was little opportunity for an ill-disciplined Dragons side who were on the receiving end of a 13-6 penalty count and managed less than 40% possession.
Ground: Olympic Park Melbourne Referee: Paul Simpkins Video Referee: Sean Hampstead Touch Judges: Rod Lawrence, Paul Holland
Scorers: STORM 34 Tries: Turner 2, King, D Cooper, MacDougall, Orford Goals: Smith 4/6, D Cooper 1/1 defeated DRAGONS 6 Tries: M Cooper Goals: Riddell 1/2
By the clock: 0 min: Blue skies. Small-ish Melbourne crowd of less than 10,000. As reported, Trent Barrett taking the field for St George. Kickoff! Dragons with the wind in the first half.
5 min: Storm attacking early and with numbers close to the line, but bundled into touch when going the short side.
8 min: TRY - Storm. Matt King scores after repeat sets of six. Melbourne winning the play around the ruck and Saints defence looking soft. Conversion Cameron Smith 10m from posts is successful. Storm 6-0
12 min: NO TRY. Matt Orford (Storm) orchestrating play loses control of the ball over the line. A let-off for Saints.
13 min: NEWS - Alex Chan (Storm) on report for high shot on Ryan Powell (Dragons).
14 min: TRY - Dragons. Matt Cooper powers through to score out wide. Storm caught napping after penalty. Conversion attempt Mark Riddell is unsuccessful. Storm 6-4
25 min: No change to score. Storm still enjoying the best part of of field position and possession running into the wind.
26 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons. Riddell kicks from in front and 28m out. Follows another high shot from Storm. 6-all
32 min: PENALTY GOAL - Storm. Smith puts the Storm back in front. Saints lucky not to have a player in the sin bin. Penalty count mounting. Storm 8-6
38 min: TRY - Storm. Steve Turner scores in the corner after an Orford kick deflects off a Saints player and bounces up perfectly for David Kidwell, who finds Turner in support. Conversion Smith unsuccessful. Storm 12-6
HALF TIME: The Storm finishing the first half all over the Dragons. With the breeze against them in the second half, its going to be tough going for Saints. The Storm definitely the better side in the first half and should be further ahead.
For Dragons, Matt Cooper and Ben Hornby are standouts while Trent Barrett looks to be favouring his knee and was standing on the wing late in the second half. For the Storm its Matt Orford and Scott Hill who are combining well and causing plenty of strife just wide of the ruck.
45 min: Saints on the attack early but the Storm defence holds.
50 min: PENALTY GOAL - Storm. Smith slots a difficult one 11 metres in from touch. Follows a penalty against Reece Simmonds for stripping the ball. Storm 14-6
63 min: TRY - Storm. Dustin Cooper scores in the right corner following some excellent lead up work. Conversion attempt on correct side for left-footer Cameron Smith but unsuccessful. Storm 18-6
66 min: TRY - Storm. Ben MacDougall picks up loose ball and scores under posts. 'Refs call' after video ref takes an eternity to say nothing. Saints with their heads down and this scoreline could blow out to anything. Conversion Smith. Storm 24-6
69 min: TRY - Storm. Steve Turner scores out wide. Follows tremendous run from Ben MacDougall. Storm making it look easy. Conversion Smith unsuccessful. Storm 28-6
70 min: NEWS - Dean Young (Dragons) on report for head slam on Rodney Howe (Storm).
76 min: TRY - Storm. Matt Orford gets a well deserved try having ripped the Dragons to shreds today. Conversion Dustin Cooper. Storm 34-6
FULL TIME. Comprehensive victory to the home side with Orford head and shoulders above the rest. Some great returns from fullback Billy Slater and the outside backs. All the Melbourne forwards winning by knock out. For the Dragons, a few had a go but the less said the better. Telling stats: The Storm forwards dominating the ruck enabled the home side to enjoy over 60% possession. There was little opportunity for the Dragons who were often their own worst enemy and on the receiving end of a 13-6 penalty count. You can't win without the ball.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Orford (Storm) 2 - B Slater (Storm) 1 - R Kearns (Storm) -----------------------------------------