Storm beat Brisbane in NRL clash
Wayne Heming
22:24 AEST Fri May 25 2012

Melbourne gave milestone man Todd Lowrie a night to remember and Brisbane one to forget as they powered to a 34-10 NRL victory at AAMI Park on Friday night.

Playing his 50th game for the Storm and his 149th in the NRL following stints with Newcastle and Parramatta, Lowrie set Melbourne on the path to victory with two first half tries.

He then showed lightning reflexes to present Billy Slater with a try six minutes into the second half which kicked the Storm away to a 22-6 lead.

When Slater streaked 80 metres down field in the 57th minute for his second try - his 17th in 21 games against Brisbane - and winger Justin O'Neill sailed 85 metres down the touchline for an intercept try soon after, it was good night and thanks for coming.

The Broncos were forced to play out the last seven minutes of a physical clash with just 12 men after young forward David Hala, playing his first NRL game of the season, was stretchered off with a suspected dislocated knee cap.

Brisbane opted to rest Origin stars Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday and Petero Civoniceva while Melbourne's big three, skipper Cameron Smith, halfback Cooper Cronk and Slater backed up, with Smith coming off the bench.

The NRL's top-of-the-table clash seemed to be going to script -- at least for the opening 35 minutes.

Melbourne, however, put Brisbane under intense pressure in the final 10 minutes of the first half when they could quite easily have scored another three or four tries.

After video referee Steve Clark denied halfback Cooper Cronk a try in the 24th minute, the Storm seemed to go up a gear, much to the approval of the 13,000-strong crowd.

Their surge coincided with Smith joining the action.

First Slater should have scored untouched in the 31st minute but he couldn't reel in a pass from man-of-the moment Lowrie who threw it a touch high.

Slater looked like scoring two minutes later before Brisbane centre Matt Gillett flew across field to make a classic cover tackle.

A minute later Smith was held up over the line in a desperate tackle by Broncos half Peter Wallace.

The Storm though were relentless, finally cracking Brisbane when Lowrie crossed for his second try diving on a Cronk grubber kick in the 35th minute.

The Storm's Origin connection then combined beautifully - Slater and Cronk put centre Dane Nielsen across for Melbourne's third try for 16-6 half-time lead.

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin was bitterly disappointed by his side's performance.

"It was easily our worst performance of the year," Griffin said.

"We were very poor.

"We didn't have any real ethic in anything we did in attack or defence and the opposition made us pay."

In more bad news for the Broncos, Hala suffered a torn patella tendon and dislocated knee-cap in his first match back in first grade and was taken to hospital.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy had a contrasting assessment of his team and was "delighted" in their showing.

"It's the best we've played in a month," Bellamy said.

"I know we scored 30 something points but we defended well tonight.

"Our performance was really good when you consider our three playmakers played Origin only 48 hours ago."

He praised some of his unheralded players like Lowrie, Ryan Hinchliffe and Jason Ryles, who he said stepped up as the team prepared without their Origin stars.

Bellamy claimed to not even be aware his side was now three wins clear of their nearest opponent - Brisbane - on the NRL ladder.

"There's still a long way to go, we're not even halfway through the season," he said.

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