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Storm smash Dragons to kick clear in NRL

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Melbourne will head into the NRL break with a decisive four-point lead atop the competition ladder after hammering St George Illawarra 34-22 in their top-of-the-table clash.

Billy Slater responded to his Kangaroos omission with a two-try effort, while wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu also bagged two each.

Skipper Cameron Smith, who is set to play his 50th Test for Australia next week, kicked the 943rd goal of his career to overcome Jason Taylor's record for most goals in premiership history.

The Storm dominated and worked their way to a 34-4 lead early in the second half before the Dragons saved face in front of the 12,377 crowd at WIN Stadium with the final four tries of the match.

A Cooper Cronk sin-binning for a professional foul in the 65th minute also helped shift the momentum, but the Storm held on to kick two wins clear of the second-placed Dragons after nine rounds.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy labelled his team's first-half effort their best this season.

"(The Dragons have) started all their games really well this year so we knew if we come down and didn't start well we were going to be chasing all day," he said.

"I didn't really expect that we were going to get that far ahead so I thought it was just a really good effort from our blokes. Our first half was as good a half as we played this year."

Despite their lofty position on the table, the Dragons were expected to struggle without injured captain and chief playmaker Gareth Widdop.

However, the Storm flexed their attacking muscle early to render the battle against the early season surprise packets a mere whitewash by the half hour mark.

Their wingers took turns displaying incredible try-scoring efforts.

First Vunivalu cradled a Slater cross-field kick one armed for first points in the ninth minute before Addo-Carr made it consecutive tries when he showed off his speed soon after.

Vunivalu replied with another diving effort, finishing perpendicular to the corner post before Addo-Carr again responded with more burnt grass eight minutes later.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor admitted he had erred in opting to put players in the tackle against the Storm than in games against previous opposition.

"First time for a long time we had four in the tackle," he said.

"We didn't really control the ground on that and we had spaces on the middle which we couldn't spread out and put an extra number on the edges as well."

Slater completed his brace with two tries early in the second half to end any hope of a comeback, however the win was soured by confirmation of an ACL injury to Christian Welch.

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