The cards were firmly stacked against the South Sydney Rabbitohs heading into the opening match of Round 9, but what followed was a bloodbath dished out by the Storm.
Sure the Rabbitohs have a woeful record against the Storm, and they were missing half of their starting team, but depth is crucial for a premiership contender, and getting a cricket score posted against you is a horrid effort.
50-0 was the score by the time it was all said and done, Josh Addo-Carr become the first man to score six tries in an Australian top-flight match for over 70 years.
And we will get to the Storm later because plenty needs to be said about just how good they are and the way Craig Bellamy has them humming along, but without Adam Reynolds the Rabbitohs looked a mess.
More worrying than their attack though, of which there was none, was the defence.
It’s a trend that has been creeping into their game over the last few weeks. They let in plenty of points against the Titans, looked vulnerable at times against the Raiders and then had the doors completely blown off last night for their second loss of the season.
Even before that, they had only just scraped past the woeful Tigers, and while bigger wins were preceding against weaker opposition, they haven’t put in a genuinely good performance against top opposition since their Round 3 victory over the Roosters.
Last night’s result isn’t going to do their confidence a world of good either, and with certain players – Damien Cook and Cody Walker spring to mind – being so vital yet playing on confidence more often than not, it could really shake the Rabbitohs and their chances moving forward with things not exactly getting any easier in the near future, games against Penrith and Parramatta on the agenda in the next three weeks.
Breaking a seven-match winning streak wasn’t the issue Wayne Bennett and his team wake up to this morning. It was the way it happened.
Their edge defence was up there with the worst you’ll ever be likely to see. Six players out or not, defensive structures don’t change all that much, and while it was a mismatch, at this level, no one should ever be able to score six tries.
Cameron Munster, Nicho Hynes and Jahrome Hughes ran absolute rings around the Rabbitohs, with Addo-Carr the man to benefit on the wing.
How Melbourne are letting Addo-Carr go next year, or how the Tigers ever did in the first place is one of the more baffling stories to ever be written.
But, back on topic, and the Rabbitohs were targetted in all their weak spots by a relentless outfit in purple, and it showed on the final scoreboard with the Storm running up 50.
Now, it’s not a normal occurrence to write a team off who have won seven straight and still sit in the top four, but the cold hard truth is that Souths are going to go backwards before they go forwards given their current injury toll, and of course the more pressing issue:nNo team has ever, in 113 years of top-flight rugby league, won a premiership after conceding 50 points in a game.
The Storm might have only just got there, but they did, and with it, the Rabbitohs can all but kiss their premiership hopes goodbye.
More worrying for the club is the fact Adam Reynolds appears to be heading to other pastures at the end of the year, and while I don’t want to revisit last week’s column, it’s a general consensus that the men from Redfern won’t be winning a competition without their star half anytime soon.
So with last night’s absolute flogging, the Rabbitohs premiership window may have just slammed shut, despite the fact they sit 7-2.
If there is a team who are ever going to break the 50-point curse, it might be the Rabbitohs, but they are up against a mountain of history and frankly, no matter how many injuries there were last night, a team who completes at 68 per cent, runs almost a kilometre less than their opposition, misses almost 30 tackles and doesn’t make changes to counter the Addo-Carr clinic, doesn’t deserve to be in the premiership conversation.
Of course, they weren’t the only ones with injuries, given Melbourne were playing without their influential fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, arguably the competition’s best player over the first third of the season.
That only makes the 50-point loss more concerning, given Melbourne found a way to run on all those points through Jahrome Hughes, Nicho Hynes and Cam Munster.
Cameron Smith might have left the men from the Victorian capital at the start of the season, eventually announcing his retirement from the NRL, but the Storm are finally clicking on all cylinders.
A team struggling doesn’t run up 50, and while there were some bumps in the road early for Melbourne, some returns in the middle third have helped, Harry Grant continues to go from strength to strength and their attack has become absolutely menacing.
While one premiership window might be slamming shut, the other one from last night’s game just looks like it’ll never close, with Bellamy’s side now one a six-match run.
Even scarier than that is the way they have gone about it. They might look like the winning Keno numbers at the local pub, but Melbourne’s winning margins during that run have been 34, 34, 16, 22, 26 and 50, their attack putting on 224 points in those six games at an average of 36.33 points per game. The only time they scored under 40 was against the Roosters, but even that was a commanding 20-4 victory.
The only knock on Melbourne’s performance was the goal kicking, with Munster only managing to land five out of ten. But that is clutching at straws in what was otherwise a ten out of ten effort, no matter what was on the other side of the park.
So, again, the cards were stacked against South Sydney last night. They were never expected to win.
But to let Melbourne run away to the extent they did only goes to prove two factors. Melbourne are a mile ahead of everyone bar the Panthers, and South Sydney have a mountain of work to do, and now history to overcome.
A tail of conflicting emotions at Homebush to launch Round 9, but it was a Josh Addo-Carr record and a curse that stole the headlines.