Both the Panthers and the Storm have had strong starts to the year, and are preparing to face off for the first time since round thirteen of the 2016 NRL season. The Penrith squad is travelling to Melbourne to play on Melbourne’s turf, where it is seemingly impossible to beat the 2016 grand finalists – can the young Panthers beat the experienced Storm?

Last Time Out

The Penrith Panthers had a field day last Friday night when they took on the Newcastle Knights at Pepper Stadium, where they were able to start and finish strongly, walking away with a forty-point victory under their belts. Dallin Watene Zelezniak opened the scoring in the third minute, and the side continued to build pressure and score unanswered points throughout the match. The spine of the Penrith side is instrumental to their game, with the likes of Moylan, Martin, Cleary and Wallace. The four work miracles together, and it looks as though they have been playing together for ten years. The halves, Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin are the perfect combination of youth that give Panthers a spark they’ll need, assuming they make it to the back end of the season. The team enjoyed their dominant possession, which allowed them to score all seven tries that wore the Knights out one after the other. It was the second time they have managed to keep opposition try-less this season, and considering the look of the team and the confidence they play with, there’s no doubt they’ll continue to do so throughout the rest of the season, looking for a finals finish.

The Melbourne Storm were away from home when they played the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval, yet didn’t fail to show who had the edge. The Tigers came out blazing, and managed to score fourteen points between the eleventh and twenty-eighth minute. The first half was worrying for the Storm; their completion rate was less than fifty per cent and their efforts in both defence and attack were poor, not at all resemblant of who they are as a team – a team that we have seen for years. Luckily for them, at the hands of a half time spraying from coach Craig Bellamy, they completely dominated the second half, and caused pain for the players, coaching staff and the fans at the Tigers’ home ground, where the Storm managed to claw their way back to the top with a twenty-two points to fourteen victory over their opposition, who’s week leading up to the match was nothing short of chaotic and head ache inducing. It was again at the hands of their hooker and captain, Cameron Smith who showed leadership and created opportunities for the side to get back to their old tricks.

Key Battle

The spines. One, six, seven and nine are the key players for both sides, who create and hold a structure for the way each team plays, ultimately leading to their successes as an entire team. Panthers fullback Matt Moylan has been instrumental this season, and is continuing to develop his skills as fullback and as captain of the side. Melbourne number one, Billy Slater is finally back, after a long break from the game due to a shoulder injury. His game is no where near perfect yet, however it’s patching up week in week out since he’s been back. Cooper Cronk and Nathan Cleary have one of the most important roles in their sides as the halfback, and have both had great starts to the season, playing of high standards that are bound to make an interesting match up on the weekend. Cameron Smith and Peter Wallace, the hookers for each side are so important to their team and will prove this once again on the weekend.

Both the Panthers and the Storm will be looking for impressive wins this weekend, and to do so they have to keep a high completion rate, and minimise errors and conceded penalties that could make or break their performance. Both teams all work well together, and this will definitely be an interesting match to finish off a Super Saturday of rugby league.

Prediction

Both teams will come out blazing, and there is absolutely no doubt it will be an interesting, and a tight match between these two sides. The match ups of the spines will be a competition in itself. The Storm will be desperate to jump back to number one on the ladder, after the Roosters jumped ahead in round four. The Panthers will be looking to build up on some consistency, and claim their second straight victory this season, after having a loss/win/loss/win beginning to the season. It’s a hard game to pick, and as confident I am in the Storm’s abilities, given their start to the season, I believe the youth and cohesion that is evident in the Panthers may have the slightest edge over the Storm at AAMI Park.

Panthers by 2.

Squads

Melbourne Storm

1. Billy Slater

2. Young Tonumaipea

3.  Will Chambers

4. Cheyse Blair

5. Josh Addo-Carr

6. Ryley Jacks

7. Cooper Cronk

8. Jesse Bromwich

9. Cameron Smith (c)

10.  Jordan McLean

11.  Felise Kaufusi

12. Kenneath Bromwich

13. Dale Finucane

Interchange

14. Christian Welch

15. Tim Glasby

16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona

17. Joe Stimson

18. Mark Nicholls

19. Tui Kamikamica

20. Jeremy Hawkins

21. Suliasi Vunivalu

Penrith Panthers

1. Matt Moylan (c)

2. Dean Whare

3. Waqa Blake

4. Tyrone Peachy

5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak

6. Te Maire Martin

7. Nathan Cleary

8. James Tamou

9. Peter Walace

10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard

11.  Corey Harawira-Naera

12. Issah Yeo

13. Trent Merrin

Interchange

14. Peta Hiku

15. Leilani Latu

16. Viliame Kikau

17. Sitaleki Akaula

18. Moses Leota

19. Tim Browne

20. Sione Katoa

21. James Fisher-Harris