The Melbourne Storm have made a huge finals statement with a 40-12 annihilation of the fourth-placed Manly Sea-Eagles on Friday night.
The purple haze played a complete game that included very little errors, with a big part of this win being the resurgence of Ryan Papenhuyzen.
The Storm speedster has gotten over the try-line five times in two weeks and has put any question-marks over his ability in a return from injury to bed. Papenhuyzen had battled with concerning concussion symptoms following Magic Round, which has impacted a large portion of his season.
But now, the NSW fullback is back to his best and holds the key to the Storm's finals run.
Papenhuyzen scored a trademark try in the 44th minute during broken play on the left edge, in which Harry Grant found Papenhuyzen at full speed through the middle.
This play highlighted the strength of the Storm spine that clearly outplayed their opposition with some ease.
Then the kid wonder in Grant added greatly to the team's success on both sides of the ball. His speed from dummy-half made it hard for Manly to curb his running meterage as he had 41 metres total for the game out of the rake.
Grant also defended well and took every chance to drive the ball carrier back behind the advantage.
The Storm's spine clicked and may have solved any selection quires still up in the air. Craig Bellamy may have found his set spine for the rest of the finals.
Nicho Hynes was largely the forgotten man in the monumental win, as he only played 22 minutes off the bench. Although eventually coming on for Dale Finucane and slotting into the back-row, Hynes' role may now be to support Ryan Papenhuyzen and play out of position when needed.
It's a section luxury that highlights the tremendous depth the team possesses, which is essential for finals football.
Although the backs played a good game, most of the damage was done by the big boys up front. The forwards were clinical in their performance and allowed for maximal possession time during the game.
The Storm had a 90% completion rate, along with 61% of total possession, which did show that the forwards were holding the ball and committing few errors.
The two starting props, Jesses Bromwich and Christian Welsh, bruised and battered the Sea Eagles. The seasoned veterans had over 40 metres of post-contact play and constantly drove themselves through attempted tackles.
Defensively the Storm were sound, and often times critical to the strong win. The tactical work on Dally M contender Tom Trbojevic was a highlight of the victory. They set the tone early and rushed up off the line on one of Trbojevic's early runs and drove him back with purpose. The Storm we not going to let him dictate the terms of the match.
They also slowed down the Manly fullback's ruck speed and tended to lie down on Trbojevic when tackling which, lessened his overall impact on the contest. The other obvious tactic was to kick the ball to the fullback more often than not, which tested the 194cm-tall Trbojevic below his knees.
The win was a surprise to a certain degree due to Manly's great form leading up to the game, but the Storm have the right players in the correct positions on the field, which made them just too hard to overcome.
The Storm will enjoy the week off no doubt.