Melbourne showcased their incredible depth as they lent on some fresh faces to clinically dispose of Canterbury 41-10 on Saturday.
That pool of talent will be tested again though after another knee injury to Cameron Munster, the Queensland and Australian half falling awkwardly in a tackle and set to miss at least two weeks.
They were already without hooker Cameron Smith (shoulder), in-form fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and forward Dale Finucane (both rested) on the Sunshine Coast.
Munster has already missed two weeks with a similar knee injury this season and will now join Smith on the sidelines for next Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters and possibly the following round against Parramatta.
It didn’t fluster them on Saturday though, with the Storm continuing their five-year unbeaten run over bottom-four teams.
Smith’s namesake and hooking replacement Brandon Smith, backrower Kenny Bromwich (two tries) and new fullback Nicho Hines ran riot while centre Justin Olam goose-stepped his way to another try.
“We haven’t played a lot without him (Cameron Smith), so not to have him here was a little different but a good education and I thought they did a terrific job,” coach Craig Bellamy said.
“We’ve played some good footy … I’m not quite sure we deserved to score as many points as we did today, there were a couple of unorthodox tries.”
The Bulldogs didn’t help themselves. Lachlan Lewis and Josh Jackson both threw loose passes that were scooped up by wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu respectively for long-range tries.
The first was one of three in five minutes to break the game open, while Vunivalu’s came just as the Bulldogs threatened a boilover trailing 23-10.
Addo-Carr then added salt to the Bulldogs’ wounds, winning the race to a long kick down-field to grab a brace.
Interim Bulldogs coach Steve Georgallis suggested his side had been complacent given the Storm’s outs.
“We told them what to expect and they didn’t react, didn’t turn up and they did,” he said.
“Probably the missing ingredient is what’s going on between our ears, that was missing today.”
Hines was always going to take his chance though, as far back as fourth in the pecking order last season but all class in the No.1 with strong carries, assured kicking, safe hands and an early try.
Lewis’s forgettable game included a sin-bin and report for a loose high shot on Munster, the playmaker returning to land another high shot on Addo-Carr that his coach said was a product of frustration.
The Bulldogs (2-11) remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder while the win was the Storm’s (11-2) seventh-straight, moving them ahead of the Panthers who meet Canberra later on Saturday.