Storm crush Manly in NRL qualifying final

·3-min read

The stage had been set for another bruising round between two great NRL heavyweights at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Instead, minor premiers Melbourne hardly broke a sweat in a knockout 40-12 win over Manly on Friday night, earning a preliminary final berth and a welcome week off.

The qualifying final was billed as a Sunshine Coast stoush, extending a feud that had begun in earnest in their 2007 grand final and erupted in the now-infamous Battle of Brookvale 10 years ago.

However, the Storm juggernaut just kept rolling along, registering 40 points or more for the 12th time this year and relegating their arch-rivals to a must win semi-final next week.

Still, Storm coach Craig Bellamy wasn't getting ahead of himself.

"They have done a terrific job in the circumstances. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and if we stay focused for the next three weeks we will see what happens," he said.

Melbourne's only complaint after their fifth straight win over Manly was losing hooker Brandon Smith to a suspected facial fracture in the 18th minute.

He will undergo scans on Monday.

There were no injury concerns though for Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster, who remarkably was in hospital last week with an infected knee.

After declaring himself fit before kickoff, Munster was Melbourne's maestro in his 150th game, setting up two tries and delivering a kicking masterclass.

"His strongest trait is how hard he competes. And he was a competitor tonight - he came up with some big plays and I couldn't be happier with him," Bellamy said.

Manly had been considered the team mostly likely to inflict a rare loss on the defending champions, cruising into the finals off the back of fullback Tom Trbojevic's brilliance.

But Manly hardly fired a shot against a ruthless Storm who didn't look back after grabbing a point-a-minute 16-0 lead and 24-6 halftime advantage.

Dally M Medal favourite Trbojevic was held scoreless for just the third time this year and rarely threatened.

"I don't think it is a harsh reality check. We did ourselves a real disservice tonight," Manly coach Des Hasler said.

"Things...that you can't do against the Melbourne side, we did them. Very ill-disciplined with the ball, ill-disciplined with penalties, just too much negative play and gave them too much field position.

"(But) we will turn it around."

Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen appears back to his best after a long recovery from concussion after taking his try tally to five in the last two games.

He scored either side of the break to blow the score out to 30-6 before Manly showed signs of life.

Sea Eagles flyer Jason Saab bagged his second try in the 51st minute after Isaac Lumelume made a mess of a Reuben Garrick kick and suddenly Manly were up and about.

But there was no coming back when Justin Olam crashed over in the 77th minute and Papenhuyzen added the finishing touches with a two-point field goal on the fulltime siren.

The match threatened to erupt in the 55th minute when Josh Schuster was placed on report for a high shot on Storm No.7 Jahrome Hughes and it was almost on again in the 71st after a late hit on Manly's Brad Parker.

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