North Queensland has run roughshod over Melbourne in its 22-0 NRL win in Townsville on Saturday night.
The 11th hour inclusion of skipper Cameron Smith was not enough for injury-ravaged Melbourne as they were thrashed 22-0 by North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday night.
The Cowboys’ State of Origin quartet of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, James Tamou and Brent Tate all backed up as North Queensland ran in four tries to nil.
The margin could have been much more, with Scott, Ray Thompson, Matthew Wright and Ethan Lowe all denied tries by on-field referee Ashley Klein and video referee Steve Clark.
The carnage of Origin reduced the Storm to a tropical depression, with stars Billy Slater (shoulder) and Cooper Cronk (broken arm) both ruled out of the NRL clash.
Smith overcame a high ankle sprain, named at halfback but playing predominantly at hooker and sharing play-making duties with New Zealand international Tohu Harris and Ben Roberts.
As well as Cronk, the Storm were without playmakers Cody Walker (hamstring), Joel Romelo (ankle) and Ben Hampton (suspension).
And it could get worse for the Storm, with winger Young Tonumaipea placed on report for a suspected crusher tackle on Tate in the 34th minute.
Tate was at the centre of a match review controversy during the week after being cartwheeled in Origin by Blues player Josh Reynolds who escaped suspension.
Tate was left clutching at his neck after Tonumaipea twisted it in a tackle.
The Cowboys surged to a 16-0 halftime lead with Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein and Thurston all crossing as the weight of 64 per cent possession took its toll.
Thurston iced the game in the 65th minute, kicking the ball through the line before toeing it under the sticks for fullback Michael Morgan to pounce.
Scott (164m) and Tamou (121m) were tremendous backing up from Origin, racking up big metres in a Cowboys pack that also featured dominant performances from Scott Bolton (154m), Jason Taumalolo (159m) and Ashton Sims (123m).
Young fullback Cameron Munster was called on by the Storm to fill the sizeable boots vacated by Slater and was pressured early, coughing up the ball three times.
2013 NYC Lock of the Year John Asiata made his NRL debut for the Cowboys after following former Roosters assistant Paul Green to North Queensland in the off-season.
With key attacking weapons in Slater and Cronk missing, Cowboys coach Green knew the Storm would look to their forward pack to win the match.
“With the players they had out I think it was always going to turn into that sort of game,” Green said.
“They still had a very good forward pack … we came out on top there which was really pleasing.”
Smith, who played despite the urgings of his coach Craig Bellamy, said his effort was “nothing special”.
“Anyone in our position would have done the same thing,” Smith said of himself and NSW representative Ryan Hoffman backing up.
“It’s our job to back up and play, unfortunately we’re down on numbers at the moment.
“It wasn’t hard to put the hand up and play.”
Despite the heavy loss, Bellamy was pleased with the effort of his available players.
“There was some real good effort out there tonight, without a doubt,” he said.