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Arguably the most encouraging 40 minutes of the Nathan Brown era gave way to quite possibly the most embarrassing half of football in the Warriors’ history as they put up the white flag in a 70-10 Anzac Day obliteration at the hands of Melbourne Storm.

The Storm led only 16-10 at halftime – from three tries that were handed to them on a platter. The Warriors scored two brilliant tries of their own and defended heroically before the break. But game-ending injuries to Josh Curran and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak early in the second stanza led to a 10-try avalanche in 31 minutes and a host of unwanted records.

Among the catastrophic numbers:
• Highest score conceded in Warriors history (previous worst was 62 against Penrith in 2013)
• Equal-seventh-highest score conceded in premiership history
• Highest score conceded in an NRL match since 2008
• Biggest losing margin in Warriors history (previous worst was 56 against Penrith in 2013)
• Most tries (13) conceded in Warriors history (previous worst was 11)
• Most tries conceded in an NRL match since 2008
• Only one team in the past 44 years have conceded more tries – Cronulla leaked 14 against Parramatta in 2003
• Melbourne’s equal-highest score, matching the 70-10 rout of St George Illawarra (a side that ironically contained Nathan Brown) in 2000

The capitulation completely ruined what was a gallant display before the change of ends. The Warriors completed just two of nine sets in the second half, had just 34 percent possession overall and were out-run 2,063 metres to 763 – astonishing stats. But almost inevitably, young winger Ed Kosi was the figurehead of a defeat that will live on in Warriors infamy with a horror performance that was responsible for at least three tries.

Melbourne’s three first-half tries could have, should have been avoided. Kosi, overwhelmingly solid in three games this year after a tough 2021 initiation, nullified a positive start by coughing up a simple pass when a try-scoring chance had been dished up to him. The Storm swept 90 metres in a matter of seconds with Jahrome Hughes dotting down for the opener.

A beautiful ball from Chanel Harris-Tavita popping up on the right sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak over for his third try in as many 2022 appearances, before Kosi’s comical in-goal clean-up gifted opposite Xavier Coates four points.

Danger signs at 14-4 down after a telegraphed pass from Shaun Johnson invited Nick Meaney to sprint 60 metres in the other direction in the 26th minute. But Johnson atoned three minutes later when a deft chip kick took a wild bounce and Wayde Egan chased through to score.

The Warriors’ desperate scrambling defence for the remainder of the half – as it had been earlier in the match – was as good as anything we’ve seen during the Nathan Brown era. The Storm threw plenty at the visitors but they turned up every time to snuff out likely tries, Euan Aitken especially heroic in that department. Justin Olam gave Jesse Arthars a 40-minute bath but the Warriors escaped unscathed.

A penalty goal after the siren saw the Storm head in six points up at halftime – an extraordinary scoreline given their running metres and possession advantage.

But injuries soon after the break – with Curran’s not looking promising as he returned to the bench in a leg brace with a suspected MCL and DWZ KO’d in a sickening collision – opened the floodgates.

After Ryan Papenhuyzen (who finished with 22 points) climbed Cazaly-style to grab a bomb from unlikely hoister Nelson Asofa-Solomona and score in the 47th minute, the longest the Storm went without scoring a try for the rest of the slaughter was five minutes.

Errors and six-agains begged the Storm to tear them apart and the Warriors backed up incompetence with the ball with meek goal-line defence and a lack of effort and commitment all over the park.

Kosi giving up when leading a chase for kick as Coates zipped through to score his fourth try should (but won’t) ensure he never plays first grade again.

A clash with embattled Canberra in five days’ time is suddenly make-or-break for the season. The only team to make the finals after leaking 70 points in a game was the 2006 Raiders (who lost 70-32 to the Knights before landing seventh).

Memorably, though, after the Warriors’ previous worst defeat to the Panthers in 2013, they bounced back with a 28-12 win over the Knights a week later. A statement performance – underlining that it was merely a diabolical 40 minutes in isolation and nothing more – could save their campaign.

That 2013 team went on a giant-killing mid-season run (before fading late)…but Brownie’s charges have just one win over an eventual Top 8 team – in Round 1 last year against the Titans – to their name.

Whether this squad can find – soon or ever – the necessary resolve to regularly compete with good teams under Brown remains very much up in the air.

Melbourne Storm (Xavier Coates 4, Jahrome Hughes 2, Nick Meaney 2, Ryan Papenhuyzen 2, Harry Grant, Jesse Bromwich, Justin Olam tries; Papenhuyzen 7, Meaney 2 goals) defeated Warriors 10 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Wayde Egan tries; Reece Walsh goal) at AAMI Park

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