A first-half hat-trick to prolific winger Suliasi Vunivalu spearheaded Melbourne’s 22-10 win over Canberra in the capital.
The Storm led 14-0 at halftime, with Vunivalu blazing over three times through the outstanding lead-up work of Jahrome Hughes, Brodie Croft and Curtis Scott.
The Raiders landed on the scoreboard in the 51st minute, Jarrod Croker crossing after wonderful play from outstanding English recruit John Bateman. Nelson Asofa-Solomona powered over to land a hammer blow on the hosts’ comeback hopes with 20 minutes to go, but captain Croker kept his side alive with his second try. The Storm defended their way to a second straight victory without too much trouble, however.
Vunivalu extended his amazing NRL career record to 64 tries in just 72 games, but there were few better players for Melbourne than lock Dale Finucane, who ran for a game-high 191 metres and racked up 32 tackles. Former Warrior Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad impressed at fullback for Canberra with 180 running metres and six tackle-breaks.
Melbourne Storm 22 (Suliasi Vunivalu 3, Nelson Asofa-Solomona tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 10 (Jarrod Croker 2 tries; Croker goal) at GIO Stadium
A brutal and brilliant performance from rampaging forward Tevita Pangai Jr was the standout feature of Brisbane’s emphatic 29-10 derby triumph over North Queensland.
Elevated to the starting line-up for suspended prop Matt Lodge, Pangai Jr reeled off a succession of punishing tackles and laid on the first try with an offload during a bombastic opening stint, then sent Cowboys defenders scattering with a 46th-minute try.
The Cowboys’ engine-room freak equivalent, Jason Taumalolo, left the field in the 33rd minute after battling on with a worrying medial injury incurred from a ferocious hit from Pangai Jr.
The Brisbane backs’ brilliant counterattack and willingness to shift the ball wide inside their own half also caused constant headaches for the visitors. Corey Oates and James Roberts both notched doubles as the Broncos surged to a 24-0 lead after 50 minutes.
Ex-Bronco Jordan Kahu and Justin O’Neill dotted down for the Cowboys either side of an Andrew McCullough try set up by boom interchange Kotoni Staggs.
Jack Bird was another standout for the Broncos, running for over 100 metres, throwing the last pass for both of Oates’ tries and recording three line-break assists in his best performance for the club. Meanwhile, raw-boned 19-year-old Thomas Flegler made a game-high 196 metres from 16 carries in just 37 minutes off the bench to herald the arrival of another budding superstar from Brisbane’s extraordinary production line of forward talent.
Brisbane Broncos 29 (Corey Oates 2, James Roberts 2, Tevita Pangai Jr, Andrew McCullough tries; Jamayne Isaako 2 goals; Anthony Milford field goal) defeated North Queensland Cowboys 10 (Jordan Kahu, Justin O’Neill tries; Kahu goal) at Suncorp Stadium