In a game where the ball hit the ground as many times as it hit players hands, Panthers NYC have suffered their second loss of the season, going down 42-24 to the Storm at AAMI Park. Despite a gallant three try comeback late in the second half, the Melbourne youngsters were too good for Penrith, and walked away with an 18 point win.

The Panthers team was a strong one, bolstered by the return of Bryce Cartwright and Sam Scarlett after long injury breaks, and speedy winger Waqa Blake. We started in perfect style, completing our sets and making tackles, but within 10 minutes we had lost all momentum and couldn’t get our mojo back. There were plenty of mistakes and a lot of dropped balls from both sides, but Melbourne managed to recover a lot better than we did, which ultimately gave them the win.

Bryce Cartwright’s return was nothing short of brilliant, scoring a try with his first touch of the ball. Three minutes into the match, he intercepted a Storm pass on the halfway line and took off down the field. He had a few Melbourne defenders hot on his heels, but he managed to make it to the line and score near the posts before they caught him. He converted his own try and Panthers took an early 6-0 lead.

A few minutes later we were agonisingly close to scoring again, but a mistimed pass gave Melbourne possession. From here, the home side took control of the game, and the Panthers rarely got their hands on the ball.

The Storm hammered away at their line and after 10 minutes they managed to break through. Drawing our defenders in on the right side they passed out to winger Suliasi Vunivalu who was left unmarked and jogged over the line unopposed. The kick was off-target, and the score went to 6-4.

Soon after, they were in again, this time over on the left side. With some quick passes from the centre of the field out to the wing, Penrith were left on the back foot as their #3 Josh Minhinnick sprinted over near the corner post. This time the conversion was good, and Melbourne took the lead 10-6.

The home side was dominating the match and Penrith was struggling to keep up. With 12 minutes left on the clock, Melbourne had their third try, thanks to some fancy footwork by their five-eighth Cameron Munster, who easily dodged the Panthers backline and ran in under the posts. The conversion was good, and the home side extended their lead to 16-6.

Their fourth try came a few minutes later through brute force. Their attackers drove hard at their line and our defenders couldn’t hold them out. The ball went down and the kick was good, and the score went to 22-6, with 8 minutes until half time.

They backed that up with yet another one for five-eighth Cameron Munster, who literally ran through Penrith’s backline without too much hassle. Despite attempts to hold him up, he managed to get the ball down for another four points. The kick was waved away, so the Storm took a 20 point lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers when Brendan Attwood was sent off after a contentious tackle. But we managed to hold the Storm out for the remaining few minutes of the first half, leaving Coach Trent Barrett with plenty to say during the half time break.

HALF TIME: 26-6 Storm

The second half got off to a horror start for the Panthers, and 60 seconds into play they had let the Storm in for their 6th try. After making their way up to their 10m line, they were all over our left wing and drew our defenders in, before sending #3 Josh Minhinnick over for his second for the day. The conversion was good and the score went to 32-6.

5 minutes later, the exact same game plan had them over the line again. Minhinnick was given the ball which he ran up the sideline and grounded, just before being taken out by a Penrith defender. The kick went wide, so the score went to 36-6, with 32 minutes left on the clock.

There was a small glimmer of hope in the 52nd minute when Josh Jay was given a beautiful ball on the right side, which he took through a hole in the Storm’s backline and ran into score. Cartwright missed the tricky sideline conversion though, so the score went to 36-10.

But the celebrations were short lived when Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu barged his way through Penrith’s defence and fell over the line to add another four points to their haul. The kick from in front was good, and the home side took a 32 point lead, with 23 minutes remaining.

Although a comeback was out of reach at this stage in the match, Penrith weren’t going down without a fight, and a brilliant kick chase from halfback Sam Scarlett gave us our next try. He put a grubber kick in which found winger Waqa Blake, who then took off down the right side. Brendan Attwood was there to support and when the Storm defenders caught up with Blake, he offloaded to Attwood who scurried over the line. The kick missed, so the Panthers moved to 42-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining.

We backed that up with another 4-pointer a few minutes later. A wild pass to the left found the hands of winger Jarryd Dodd, who jogged over the line unopposed. Again, the kick was waved away so the score went to 42-18.

In the final minute, Panthers fullback Brent Naden added to our total, running through a very tired looking Storm pack to plant the ball down. Cartwright’s conversion was on target as the siren sounded, but Melbourne had bagged the win.

FULL TIME: 42-24 Storm