Melbourne have continued their ominous surge towards the NRL finals with a 28-6 defeat of Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium with superstar halfback Cooper Cronk leading the way.
Cronk laid on four of the visitors’ five tries before 7,782 fans on Monday night as the embattled Tigers’ finals hopes took a blow in a tribute game to injured former forward Simon Dwyer.
Melbourne have now won three straight since the end of the State of Origin period, to move into sixth spot on the NRL ladder.
The Tigers struck first after eight minutes through Sitaleki Akauola out wide but from then on it was all the Storm.
Former Tigers winger Marika Koroibete replied when he snaffled a Ben Roberts kick in the 18th minute and just a few minutes later a short side ball from Cronk laid on the another one for the Fijian flyer.
With halfback Luke Brooks a late withdrawal with a shoulder injury, the Tigers had been strong through the first 10 minutes but Melbourne dominated much of the first half from then on.
Cronk put Will Chambers in the clear in the 36th minute and the Queensland winger easily beat a slipping fullback Mitchell Moses to score a 35m try for Melbourne to go to the break 18-6 ahead.
Cronk then kicked for a flying Sisa Waqa on the opposite wing to Koroibete 10 minutes after the break and the Maroons playmaker then combined with his fellow Queensland stars Billy Slater and Cameron Smith when the No.9 scored in the 54th minute.
Those were the last points of the match as emotions almost boiled over for the frustrated Tigers in the final 20 minutes, with a number of heated incidents between the two sides.
Tigers winger Pat Richards left the field with a hamstring injury in the first half and didn’t return to add to a mounting injury toll.
Akauola was placed on report for a shoulder charge on Slater late in the second stanza.
Internal rumblings over the future of coach Mick Potter appear to have taken their toll on the 12th-placed Tigers, who have lost four of their last five matches and realistically need to win four of their five remaining games to make the finals.