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“The sleeping giants of the NRL are very much awake,” Fox Sports commentator Warren Smith declared just before kick-off at AAMI Park.

But the Warriors hit the snooze button as the Melbourne Storm inflicted a 50-10 Anzac Day demolition job courtesy of a first-half onslaught.

A phenomenal four-try burst in the space of eight minutes put the Warriors on the rack for the first time in 2018. The Storm led 38-0 at halftime before coasting to victory in an evenly-fought second stanza.

After quite possibly the greatest defensive display in the Warriors’ history just five days earlier against the Dragons, they lacked application and communication without the ball against a Storm side that was in a ruthless mood.

Those glaring deficiencies filtered through to every other aspect of the Warriors’ performance during the opening 40.

As well as badly damaging their hopes of a seventh win in eight games, a knee injury to Issac Luke midway through the first half – and a possible six-week layoff – further soured a tough night for the Warriors, but their admirable fight-back during the second half provided a significant silver lining.

The Storm produced one of the sweetest tries of 2018 in just the third minute, with pinpoint kicks from Billy Slater and Young Tonumaipea setting up halfback Ryley Jacks to score.

A run of penalties gave the Warriors a couple of attacking opportunities, which came undone early in the sets via an intercept pass thrown by Luke and an Adam Blair error.

Melbourne’s short kicking game put the Warriors on the ropes again in the 13th minute. David Fusitu’a failed to clean up a Cameron Munster grubber and ex-Warrior Ryan Hoffman scooped up the ball for a simple four-pointer.

The Warriors were then unable to back up a cheap penalty they gave away in the ensuing set, with Munster sending prop Christian Welch through for the softest try conceded by the Auckland-based club in 2018.

Luke’s departure also rocked the Warriors and the Storm effectively put the game to bed from the restart as a Curtis Scott break led to a try to Billy Slater.

Incredibly, the on-fire hosts then posted a fourth back-to-back try after Felise Kaufusi stood up Anthony Gelling and sent Tonumaipea on his way to the line.

Twenty-three minutes in, 30-0 down. If it was boxing, the ref would’ve declared a TKO.

The under-siege visitors briefly clotted the haemorrhaging of points, but Josh Addo-Carr reopened the Warriors’ gaping wounds in the 31st minute with a blistering 85-metre solo try from dummy-half.

Mercifully, Cameron Smith opted for a gimme penalty goal just before the break despite the Warriors’ inability to hold out anything resembling focused attack up until that point.

But the Warriors made a positive start to the second stanza when Mason Lino and Peta Hiku combined for Fusitu’a to score his ninth try of the year with a trademark freakish finish.

A Roger Tuivasa-Sheck break almost led to another score in the ensuing possession, but the Storm rebuffed several consecutive sets on their own line.

After several failed forays, however, Fusitu’a had his second again thanks to slick inside work from Lino and Hiku – and again via a superb finish from the NRL’s leading try-poacher.

An error from the restart from Jazz Tevaga gave Slater the opportunity to send Addo-Carr over for his brace with 17 minutes left. Smith’s sideline conversion took the score to 44-10 – the most points conceded by the Warriors since late 2015.

Jacks backed up Slater with eight minutes left to notch his first NRL double and bring up the half-ton for Melbourne.

The effect of Luke’s absence was especially evident in a frustratingly sloppy passing performance from the entire side in the second half.

A 50-10 result looks ugly – and the first half was an abomination – but the second-half response from the Warriors could ultimately prove as important to their campaign moving forward as any of their wins to date.

Perhaps the possession deficit and intensity of the Dragons clash was too big of a burden when doubled up with a five-day turnaround, but the Warriors now have nine days to recalibrate and put this match well behind them ahead of a massive home showdown with Wests Tigers.

Melbourne Storm 50 (Ryley Jacks 2, Josh Addo-Carr 2, Ryan Hoffman, Young Tonumaipea, Christian Welch, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 9 goals) defeated Warriors 10 (David Fusitu’a 2 tries; Mason Lino goal) at AAMI Park. 

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