Melbourne Storm 27 South Sydney 14
Try time: Souths star Greg Inglis is unable to stop Sisa Waqa scoring for the Storm. Photo: Getty Images
It was meant to serve as an Origin audition for those on the fringe of the Blues team, instead it proved to be a reminder of just how far the gap is between Melbourne's big three and NSW's hopefuls.
With Laurie Daley still unclear on which players to hand the No.6 and No.7 jerseys to when he announces his team on Tuesday, Adam Reynolds and John Sutton had a golden opportunity to stake their claim at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Johnston(2), Reynolds||Tries||3||Tries||4||Players||Slater(2), Cronk, Waqa|
|Players||Reynolds 1/3 (33%)||Conversions||1||Conversions||4||Players||Smith 4/4 (100%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||1||Players||Smith 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||1||Players||Cronk 1/2 (50%)|
But a 27-14 loss against Melbourne, inspired by the Storm and Maroons' fullback, halfback and hooker, hasn't helped their cause.
Granted - South Sydney's halves didn't get a lot of opportunities to show what they could do against quality opposition.
And yes, they did combine to produce a quality four pointer to start the second half.
But there inability to swing the momentum of the game when there was a hint of a comeback might just be as significant to Daley as what a man of the match performance would have been.
With all the talk in recent weeks suggesting Melbourne were begining to lose their aura after one of their worst starts to the season in the last decade, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk answered just before the period of the season they have dominated for so long.
They were supposed to be on old legs.
Lacking the motivation and drive to challenge the competition frontrunners.
Given some of their performances to open the 2014 season, perhaps such scrutiny was justified.
But any doubt over their credentials was put to bed on Friday night, dictating terms from start to finish in what was a lesson for their counterparts.
However, like most of Melbourne's games this season, it wasn't without controversy.
Smith unloaded on the referees after Ryan Hinchcliffe was penalised for clipping the legs of Reynolds after putting up a bomb at a time when the Rabbitohs had quickly reduced a 16 point deficit to just six and received five penalties on the trot.
A furious Smith said "Are you penalising that? Are you guys serious this year ... it's rugby league".
The next time Melbourne had the ball, Slater burst through a gap to score a brilliant individual try that was sent upstairs to check for an obstruction from Kevin Proctor on Chris McQueen.
Before the video referees' overturned the on-field decision and awarded a try, Smith approached the match officials and said: "I've got no idea what's going on if he says no try here".
It was Cronk and Slater who opened It was a grubber across the face of the ruck from Cronk that saw Slater dive over for the opening try of the night.
The Storm extended their lead with a penalty goal shortly after, before capping off a dominant start to the match with Cooper Cronk crashing over to give Melbourne a 14-0 lead after 26 minutes.
Bryson Goodwin put the ensuing kick off dead, but a Tohu Harris knock on close to the line denied the Storm of what looked like a certain try.
When the Rabbitohs finally got into their opposition 20 metre zone, they immediately turned pressure into points with Alex Johnston showing great strength to barge over Slater and score in the corner.
But on the stroke of half time, the Storm landed a huge blow when Sisa Waqa scored in the corner, giving the Storm a 20-4 lead at the break.
When.Sutton broke through the Storm defensive line to put Reynolds in under the posts, the Rabbitohs fans finally had something worth cheering about, with Johnston grabbing his second seven minutes later to reduce Melbourne's lead to just six.
But when Slater scored his second of the night, which was followed by a late field goal to Cronk, all hope of a Rabbitohs comeback went with it.