NRL 2021: Melbourne Storm's Kiwi core lead thumping second-half surge against Cronulla Sharks

Melbourne Storm have underlined their credentials as reigning NRL premiers, blowing away Cronulla Sharks in a second-half surge for a 40-14 thrashing at AAMI Park - thanks largely to their core of New Zealand internationals.

After an uncharacteristic first half that saw Melbourne trailing 8-6 at the break, a trademark spray from coach Craig Bellamy saw the Storm click into gear in the second spell.

Tom Eisenhuth and Tui Kamikamica both scored early in the second spell to put the Storm ahead, before Melbourne's Kiwi contingent took over.

Winger and former New Zealand Nines representative Reimis Smith scored Melbourne's fourth try of the night, starting a romp of four tries in 14 minutes.

Kiwis utility and Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes was next, stepping past three defenders before scoring just wide of the uprights.

Hooker Brandon Smith - making the most of a start ahead of Australian prodigy Harry Grant - scored an identical try to Hughes', exposing a flimsy Cronulla defence.

Reimis Smith had a double in the 71st minute, showing off his strength to ground the ball in the right hand corner, and completed his hat-trick four minutes from time with a diving finish.

All-up, Melbourne's second half had yielded 34 unanswered points.

Connor Tracey had the final say, scoring the Sharks' second try of the evening, but it was ultimately meaningless in his side's capitulation.

The win moves Melbourne into third on the NRL ladder, two points behind leaders Penrith Panthers, albeit having played one game more.

Cronulla meanwhile languish in 13th, with their form having tapered off dramatically since sacking coach John Morris in April.

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