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Melbourne Storm too strong for South Sydney Rabbitohs

Melbourne have marked their turf as defending NRL champions by seeing off fellow competition heavyweights South Sydney 26-8 at AAMI Park.

A few minutes of Melbourne magic which produced two tries early in the first half set up the grinding victory on Friday night.

Souths superstar and former Storm boy Greg Inglis didn't play, still troubled by the knee injury suffered during State of Origin last month.

The Rabbitohs were also missing injured five-eighth John Sutton although his replacement Luke Keary impressed in his first NRL start.

Last round Melbourne crushed Canberra 68-4 and they began this match similarly threatening fashion.

In the fifth minute halfback Cooper Cronk flung a wild ball that was batted twice across field, ending up in the arms of Will Chambers, who raced through a gaping hole in the stunned defence.

Three minutes later Melbourne scored again after Rabbitohs winger Dylan Farrell tried to work the ball from his own line but was barrelled back across by a wall of Storm defence.

He spilt the ball which was pounced on by prop Jesse Bromwich.

Farrell later saved a certain try by Sisa Waqa but his night finished on a sour note, stretchered from the field in a neck brace after his head collided with teammate Andrew Everingham's knee while going up to take a high ball.

Apart from those opening minutes the match was fairly even, with Souths scoring late in the first half through Ben Te'o off an Adam Reynolds bomb.

The difference was that Melbourne made the most of their opportunities and the Rabbitohs didn't.

They weren't helped by an erratic performance by halfback Reynolds.

Two dubious refereeing decisions also stalled their momentum as prop Sam Burgess was penalised for taking out Billy Slater in the air, although it appeared the fullback had landed.

On the back of that penalty the Storm scored down the other end but it looked like Waqa failed to ground the ball over the line.

Melbourne put the result beyond doubt with eight minutes remaining when Justin O'Neill ran at pace on to a Slater ball and beat Nathan Merritt to touch down.


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