A new-look Penrith Panthers NYC outfit recorded their third-straight win with a 28-14 victory over Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Friday.
Coach Cameron Ciraldo handed Jake Ennis, Jarome Laui and Reed Izzard their debuts with Brent Naden and Oliver Clark receiving late call-ups to NSW Cup this week. Thomson Tuigimala missed out after picking up an ankle injury during the captain’s run on Thursday.
The Storm struck first after four minutes, finding space down the left edge with a simple passing move for winger Tony Tumusa to score the opening try. Mack Mason’s attempted conversion struck the upright, leaving the score 4-0.
On the back on a penalty, the Panthers levelled the scores with a 12th minute try in the corner to debutant winger Laui. Halfback Nathan Cleary slotted the sideline conversion for a 6-4 lead.
Christian Crichton had a chance to extend the lead with ten minutes left in the half but after gunning to the outside of the last defender, he lost possession diving for the line.
In the 35th minute the Panthers turned their attacking possession into points as Dylan Fuad took a short pass and stretched out athletically to plant the ball under the cross-bar. Cleary’s successful conversion made the score 12-4.
Struggling to pierce gaps up the middle, Melbourne attempted to pass their way around the defence in the final minutes of the half, but Penrith successfully scrambled their way to the break.
HALFTIME – Panthers 12-4
Just like the beginning of the first half, the Panthers came out of the sheds looking sluggish and the Storm capitalised. Melbourne halfback Jake Turpin laid a short ball for John Filipo to stroll over, with Mason adding the extras to reduce Penrith’s lead to just two points.
However the lead was re-established when Tyrone May burrowed his way over from close range in the 52nd minute. Cleary converted to make the score 18-10.
Cleary, who last week was named in the Australian Schoolboys side, then grabbed a try for himself two minutes later. Putting through a hopeful kick, the talented halfback was perfectly positioned to capitalise after Melbourne’s winger spilled the ball. His subsequent conversion extended Penrith’s lead to 24-10.
A sweeping Storm backline move in the 68th minute sent a flying Josh Minhinnick to the tryline. Despite the missed conversion, Melbourne was still in the hunt at 24-14.
Last week the Panthers conceded four tries in the final ten minutes of their game. This week wasn’t to see a repeat of those defensive frailties.
With five minutes left in the game, Penrith secured their win as Crichton powered his way through multiple attempted tackles before planting the ball in the left corner.
FULLTIME – Panthers 28-14