Storm thump Tigers, claim NRL top spot

Even coach Craig Bellamy admits he couldn't believe Melbourne's "ridiculous" start that set up a 66-16 NRL thumping of a woeful Wests Tigers at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Everything the Storm touched turned to gold as they romped to a 40-0 halftime lead, scoring five tries in the first 15 minutes on Saturday before their rivals had completed their first set.

Tigers coach Michael Maguire was so livid at the main break he stormed out of the dressing room with his support staff, leaving his shell-shocked players on their own to work out how to turn it around.

But Melbourne showed no mercy as they defied a string of injuries and giant forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona's second half sin-binning to notch their 12th straight win and reclaim the ladder lead with the 12 tries to three rout.

"I don't think I have ever seen a game like that or been involved in a game like that where everything went right for us and everything that could go wrong for them did," said Bellamy. "All of a sudden it was 30-0 after 20 minutes or something, which is ridiculous."

The Storm were reduced to 14 men for the final 20 minutes after Kiwi hooker Brandon Smith (corked calf), two-try centre Reimis Smith (ankle sprain) and Tom Eisenhuth (dislocated elbow) went down.

There was more drama after Asofa-Solomona was binned for a high tackle in the 66th minute.

But the Melbourne juggernaut kept rumbling along thanks to inspirational halfback Jahrome Hughes who nabbed a try double and set up another two.

The Storm, now 13 and 2, leapfrogged Penrith for top spot thanks to an NRL record 344 points difference after 15 rounds.

It marked the ninth time in 12 games Melbourne had scored 40 or more points. Statisticians were reaching for the record books when Melbourne led 60-0 after 52 minutes.

They were on track to at least equal their club record 64-0 thumping of the Tigers back in 2001 which is also the joint venture's heaviest defeat in club history.

While the Storm fell short of a record club victory, they still notched the biggest winning margin of 2021 after Melbourne thumped South Sydney 50-0 in round nine.

The Storm had also registered the most first half points by a team this season, eclipsing Cronulla's 36-6 scoreline against North Queensland in round four.

The barnstorming start just fell short of the all-time NRL halftime record of 48-0 by Newcastle against the Cowboys in 2003.

To boot, Bellamy notched career win No.340 with the romp, equalling Tim Sheens as second on the all-time list behind Wayne Bennett.

Melbourne now have a 8-0 record at their home away from home, Sunshine Coast Stadium, after relocating the game north from AAMI Park due to Victoria's COVID-19 situation.

Asked if the game was like a training run, Bellamy said: "I think we got a bit of tackling practice in the second half."

Indeed, the Tigers got on the board through Tommy Talau (55th minute), Luke Garner (66th) and David Nofoaluma (76th) crossing but it was too little, too late.

They've now conceded 106 points in the last two games. "We just got blown off the park to start with," Maguire said.