Melbourne's milestone man owns show against Manly
RUGBY LEAGUE: It was the Cameron Smith show at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Not only did the inspirational Melbourne skipper celebrate his 350th NRL game in style with a 40-6 hammering of Manly, but he played a huge part in the result.
The 34-year-old showed no signs of the pectoral strain that had hampered him in the lead-up to big occasion, setting up an impressive four tries and kicked six goals as the Storm ran in seven tries to one.
In doing so, he became just the third player in premiership history to reach the 350-game milestone after Darren Lockyer (355) and Terry Lamb (350).
The result means the Storm maintain their outright lead on the points ladder, while Manly remain in seventh with St George Illawarra and Penrith sitting two points behind and breathing down their neck.
Plenty of penalties and errors from both sides made it a stop-start affair to begin with.
First points came via a Matt Wright penalty goal after Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona was pinged for a dangerous throw tackle on Blake Green.
When the game needed someone to stand up and take charge, it was none other than Smith who got his side on the front foot in the 16th minute by making a half break then popping a ball in the following play for Jahrome Hughes to score.
The home side made it 8-2 after Sea Eagles big man Addin Fonua-Blake was put on report for a high shot on Cooper Cronk.
Manly didn't seem overawed by the occasion, marching down field in the 30th minute with Tom Trbojevic throwing a long ball over the top to Wright on the left edge.
Straight after the restart the match went up a notch with both teams testing each other out defensively before a Suliasi Vunivalu barge over effort on the stroke of half-time made it 12-6 at the break.
Manly burst out of the blocks in the second half before the men in purple wrestled back possession following a Felise Kaufusi one-on-one strip on Wright.
It turned out to be a huge play from the backrower with Smith putting Joe Stimson over just a couple of plays later.
The Storm further extended their lead midway through the second half when a Cronk kick was fumbled in-goal by Brian Kelly with Kenny Bromwich diving on the loose ball.
Smith then set up two tries in as many minutes when he put Will Chambers over under the sticks before grubbering for Cronk to score.
An try to Josh Addo-Carr in the 80th minute further rubbed salt into the wounds for the Sea Eagles.