Desperate Panthers sunk by Storm
A staunch defensive effort from the Storm has extended the Panthers winless streak in Melbourne, as the home side claimed a 28-6 victory at AAMI Park on Saturday.
The Panthers had enough attacking possession to win the game but leaked two critical runaway tries in the second half to put the result out of reach.
Penrith were forced into a late change before the game as Sitaleki Akauola failed to overcome a shoulder complaint he picked up in last week’s win over Newcastle. His spot on the Panthers bench was taken by Moses Leota.
After some dubious refereeing denied Matt Moylan a penalty for being taken out in the air, the Storm opened the scoring through winger Suliasi Vunivalu. Will Chambers created the try with an impressive one-handed offload. Cameron Smith’s attempted conversion was waved away but Melbourne led 4-0 after nine minutes.
The Storm increased their advantage in the 20th minute as a slick spread found numbers on the right edge and Chambers strolled over. This time Smith made no mistake with the conversion and Melbourne were out to a 10-0 lead.
Finally handed some possession, the Panthers hit back in the 27th minute as Te Maire Martin joined an attack on the left edge then jinked, stepped and powered his way over. Nathan Cleary nailed the conversion to make the scoreline 10-6.
The Panthers were determined to run the ball when attacking on the last tackle however the Storm muscled up to shut down chances on both flanks. Tyrone Peachey went closest - held up over the line just when it looked like his deceptive footwork would reap rewards.
Only some desperate scrambling defence from Peachey and Waqa Blake kept the Storm from extending their lead on the stroke of halftime.
HALFTIME – Melbourne 10-6
The second half got off to a questionable start as the referees ruled Cleary stripped the ball from a Melbourne player straight from the kick-off. The Storm took advantage almost immediately as Dale Finucane got an offload away to a flying Cooper Cronk to score. Smith knocked the simple conversion over to put the home side in front 16-6 in the 43rd minute.
On the back of a Melbourne error two minutes later, Leota looked certain to hit back for the Panthers but lost possession as space opened up and he reached for the tryline.
The referees ended another promising Panthers attack as Dean Whare was ruled to have knocked on just an opportunity presented itself in the 50th minute. The Panthers were throwing the ball around but seemingly couldn't find a way through the quick scramble of the Storm defensive line.
In the 58th minute Penrith's frustrations at their inability to break the line boiled over and ended in a scuffle, then two tackles later, a relieving penalty for Melbourne. On the back of that possession the Storm were gifted another dubious penalty and Smith took the two points for an 18-6 lead.
Six minutes later some haphazard play from the Panthers on the last tackle saw the ball spread to the left edge and then back to the right. Whare touched down for what looked like a legitimate try however The Bunker was called upon and ruled Tamou had knocked on as Vunivalu lost possession in the lead-up.
With ten minutes left in the contest Martin reached out for the tryline but the ball slipped from his grasp only centimetres from the grass.
From the next set Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr burnt the Panthers down the left touchline and sprinted away to score. The conversion from Smith pushed Melbourne's lead out to 24-6.
The Storm had another try in the last minute of the game as Vunivalu slid into the in-goal. Despite vision showing the ball rolling across the ground, The Bunker ruled in their favour. Quite clearly it wasn't to be the Panthers night.
FULLTIME - Melbourne 28-6