The Panthers were punished for poor ball control in a 32-2 loss to Melbourne Storm at Carrington Park on Saturday.
10,973 fans braved the cold, wet conditions for the annual trip to Bathurst, but they were left disappointed by a lacklustre Panthers performance, which featured 17 errors.
The Panthers were the dominant team in the first half, possessing 60 per cent of the football and having numerous chances on the goal line. Their attack left plenty to be desired however, and the Storm subsequently ran in five unanswered tries.
An illegal strip on Dean Whare, who played left centre, allowed James Maloney to kick the Panthers to a 2-0 lead in the 5th minute.
Cameron Munster pounced on his own kick for the opening try in the 9th minute after Josh Addo-Carr’s shoulder contest forced a mistake at the back by the Panthers. Cameron Smith’s conversion made it 6-2.
The Panthers spent the best part of the next 15 minutes camped on the Storm goal line.
But despite the field position, and a 5-0 penalty count in their favour, the Panthers’ clunky attack was no match for Melbourne’s relentless goal-line defence.
A penalty carried the Storm upfield for their first genuine attacking chance in the 27th minute. They almost came up with a try through Suliasi Vunivalu, but Frank Winterstein and Josh Mansour’s terrific try-saver kept the Panthers within reach.
Waqa Blake got the Bathurst locals off their feet when he belted Munster in the 35th minute. However, the Storm extended their lead shortly after through a penalty goal.
HALF-TIME: STORM 8 – PANTHERS 2
Brodie Croft picked up the scraps of a Dylan Edwards error to score in the 45th minute, and Smith’s conversion stretched Melbourne’s lead to 12 points.
Munster pinched the ball off Edwards to put Melbourne on the counter in the 48th minute, but NRL debutant Liam Martin forced a knock on from Addo-Carr to save the Panthers.
There was no denying Addo-Carr in the 54th minute as he dived over for his double at the end of a simple backline move. Smith added the extras from the sideline to make it 20-2.
The Panthers’ best chance of the night came in the 66th minute when Maloney and Nathan Cleary combined to put Whare into space. The centre could have gone over for himself, but instead went out to Josh Mansour, who was barrelled into touch.
The Storm put the result beyond doubt in the 69th minute when Marion Seve strolled through the Panthers’ goal-line defence with his first touch of the football. Smith knocked over the goal to make it 26-2.
Shortly after Smith kicked a penalty goal, Jesse Bromwich carried three defenders over the try line as he condemned the Panthers to a 30-point thumping.
FULL-TIME: STORM 32 – PANTHERS 2