Melbourne crowned World Club Champions with win over Leeds

Melbourne Storm won a record-equalling fourth World Club Challenge with a 38-4 victory over Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park.

The NRL champions saw off an encouraging opening quarter from the Rhinos to gain control of the match by half time, and they cut loose after the break.

It is the third time they have beaten Leeds in the World Club Challenge and equals Wigan’s record of four titles.

With two Super League matches behind them, Leeds arrived in Australia last weekend ahead of this game which comes almost a month before Melbourne are due to kick-off the NRL season.

And the Rhinos started the game well and at a high tempo. After an early Melbourne error, a knock on by Brad Singleton wasted Leeds’ first go in the redone inside two minutes.

They were playing confidently and passing the ball out on the last, which resulted in a couple of kicks from the centres. One, from Kallum Watkins, turned around Billy Slater inside his own 10 metres and that was forcing the Storm to kick early in the tackle count to try and wrestle back some field position.

Leeds were rewarded for their positive start on 10 minutes. They tapped a penalty in front of the posts and the ball moved left, and Ryan Hall, making his sixth World Club Challenge appearance, was there to beat his man one-on-one and stretch over two handed in the corner.

They held a 4-0 lead on 15 minutes, but Melbourne slowly started to get control of the match off the back of some Rhinos errors.

Jesse Bromwich crashed on to a short ball to level things up on 17 minutes, and then Brodie Croft took a few defenders over the line with him to give the Storm the lead six minutes later.

Leeds just couldn’t cull the errors and one costly one saw Hall and Jimmy Keinhorst let a Storm drop out bounce out after the Rhinos had worked hard to force what they thought would be a repeat set.

Melbourne took a bit more sting out of the contest four minutes before the break with a Cameron Smith penalty, but the gamebreaking moment came in the final minute.

They ran the ball on the last and Vunivalu sliced through some tired Leeds defence to go over and make it 18-4 at the break.

Leeds needed the first score of the second half if they were to make a game of it, but it never came.

A penalty against Matt Parcell for a tough tackle on Smith gifted Melbourne a repeat set and from it Solomona burst through a tackle and was too strong to be stopped from close range.

By the hour, Melbourne were out to 28-4, a nice lean off his right by Kaufusi getting him to the line and it was starting to get ugly.

Leeds rallied briefly following the second half drinks break and went close through Tom Briscoe, but they would concede a sixth try on 70 minutes, Ashley Chambers running in down the right touchline after Vunivalu had beat Hall in the air to tip a Croft kick backwards.

And Melbourne put the icing on the cake in the final minute as Finucane crashed over under the posts to wrap it up at 38-4.

Leeds must now dust themselves off and return to the UK for their next Super League game against Widnes next Sunday.

Melbourne: Slater, Vunivalu, Chambers, Scott, Addo-Carr, Munster, Croft, J Bromwich, Smith, Glasby, Kaufusi, Hoffman, Finucane. Subs: Smith, Solomona, K Bromwich, Welch.

Leeds: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Ward. Subs: Dwyer, Delaney, Keinhorst, Ormondroyd.

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