After another thumping NRL win, Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has opened up on the moment that changed the club’s season.
The reigning premiers won just two of their first five matches, with a series of tardy displays suggesting that the Storm’s era of dominance ended when star Cooper Cronk walked out to join the Sydney Roosters.
But the uncharacteristic errors are a thing of the past after a swashbuckling Storm outfit thrashed the New Zealand Warriors 50-10 in one of two traditional Anzac Day encounters on Wednesday.
Just hours after table-toppers St George Illawarra toppled the Roosters, the Storm were scintillating, taking a 38-0 lead into the half-time break.
The Warriors, who started the season with six straight wins and sit second on the ladder, were shell-shocked and Smith later revealed a heart-to-heart with his teammates was the catalyst for a change in form.
“When we had a few errors in those first couple of matches, I think everyone just got a little bit tight,” he told Fox Sports.
“All we were thinking was ‘don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball’. People were coming in from out of their position. We were crowding each other. We weren’t giving each other room or time with the footy.
“We were playing with a little bit of confusion and a bit of frustration.
“Three weeks ago, we just said ‘boys, let’s get back to the way we know we can play. Let’s get out there and enjoy our footy’. The results have spoken for themselves.
“The completion rate has been fantastic … if we can continue down that road, I think we’ll be looking pretty good.”
Since the team pact to get back to enjoying themselves, the Storm have thrashed Newcastle 40-14 before winning 34-20 in Brisbane.
Another big win followed on Wednesday, with Ryley Jacks, Ryan Hoffman, Christian Welch, Billy Slater, Young Tonumaipea and Josh Addo-Carr all crossing for tries in a breathtaking 32-minute period.
Addo-Carr and Jacks bagged doubles on the night with tries after the break, meaning David Fusitu’a’s brace for the Warriors was no more than a consolation.
“Over the last three weeks we’ve just released the shackles and started playing a bit of footy and things snowball from there,” Slater said.
“And when we do play that free-flowing footy, our outside men seem to benefit.”
Addo-Carr is the prime example of that, the winger having scored four tries in his past two matches.
He now has eight for the season – two behind NRL leader Fusitu’a.
The Storm’s dominance was so evident Fox Sports expert and former Australia representative Steve Roach described it “as good a first half as I’ve ever seen … they were just clinical”.
Craig Bellamy’s side sits third on the ladder and plays St George Illawarra in a blockbuster on May 6.
Dragons maintain good form
In front of a record Anzac Day crowd of 41,142 at Allianz Stadium, Nene Macdonald’s double and a man-of-the-match performance from Tyson Frizell helped the Dragons to a 24-8 win over the Roosters.
A Blake Ferguson error allowed Macdonald to score the opening try inside the first minute and a superb solo run from Ben Hunt just before half-time extended St George’s lead to 12-2 at the break.
When Tariq Sims crossed five minutes into the second half, the Dragons looked home, but Latrell Mitchell’s 50th-minute try sparked a period of Roosters dominance.
And it was only a controversial Macdonald try with 12 minutes to play that took the wind out of a possible comeback.
“It was plain to see that he [Macdonald] lost the ball so that hurts even more,” Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner said afterwards.
The Dragons are one game clear of the Warriors on top of the ladder with the Roosters, pre-season favourites, sitting seventh with just four wins from eight matches.