Melbourne Storm 38-4 Leeds: Storm win World Club Challenge title
Last Updated: 16/02/18 3:49pm
Melbourne Storm ran in seven tries to beat Leeds Rhinos 38-4 to win the World Club Challenge title in Melbourne.
Scores from Jesse Bromwich, Brodie Croft and a third from Suliasi Vunivalu, on the stroke of half-time, put Storm 18-4 ahead at the interval.
Captain Cameron Smith converted all three of their tries and added a penalty after Leeds had opened the scoring in the ninth minute courtesy of Ryan Hall.
After the break, Nelson Asofa-Solomona charged over from close range and Smith's extras extended their advantage out to 20 points - 24-4 - with half-an-hour to go.
The final quarter saw Storm's defence hold firm in the face of pressure from Leeds and they took their opportunities going forwards. Felise Kaufusi, Will Chambers and Dale Finucane all crossed to secure a record-equalling fourth World Club Challenge title.
Betfred Super League champions Leeds were boosted by the return from injury of stand-off Joel Moon but they went into their eighth World Club Challenge without four senior front-row forwards and suffered major disruption during the game.
Yet the Rhinos were full of confidence from the start and their enterprise in running a penalty from in front of the posts in the ninth minute paid off when England winger Hall accepted a cut-out pass from Ward to go over for the first try.
The 4-0 lead was fully deserved as Leeds, striving to overcome the challenge of two referees in front of a 16,029 crowd, tested the Storm defence but it quickly became the Croft show.
The half-back got prop Jesse Bromwich crashing over for an equalising try on 16 minutes before forcing his way over himself seven minutes later and then provided the final pass which enabled winger Suliasi Vunivalu to produce a devastating finish on the stroke of half-time.
Leeds had lost full-back Jack Walker, who had made an impressive start to only his 15th first-grade match, 10 minutes before half-time with a knee injury and loose forward Stevie Ward quickly followed him to the sidelines with a calf problem.
Melbourne also lost their full-back Billy Slater at half-time with a shoulder problem, although they had a handy replacement in Cameron Munster, one of five members of Australia's victorious 2017 World Cup squad.
They were among 13 members of Storm's Grand Final-winning team but the champions will be most encouraged by the display of rookie scrum-half Brodie Croft, who helped his side begin the post-Cooper Cronk era in impressive fashion.
Melbourne's 18-4 lead presented the visitors with an insurmountable task and there was no way back once substitute Asofa-Solomona barged his way over eight minutes into the second half.
When second rower Kaufusi ran onto a Croft pass to score his side's fifth try, it became a damage limitation exercise for the Rhinos.
Brett Delaney showed there was still plenty of fight among the visitors when he got back to pull off a tremendous try-saving tackle on winger Josh Addo-Carr but it was only a slight dent to Melbourne's second-half supremacy.
Centre Chambers and loose forward Finucane added further tries in the last 10 minutes as Leeds tired and Munster rounded off the scoring with his only conversion of the match.