PROFESSIONAL STORM WILL SEEK IMPROVEMENT
Melbourne Storm were a cut above Penrith Panthers last night but will still look to improve before they face the Roosters next Saturday night in Sydney.
It was a slow start for the home side after conceding a try within the first ten minutes to Josh Mansour. But once Jesse Bromwich crossed eight minutes later, Melbourne gained the upper hand to lead 16-6 at the break. At one stage the Storm dominated possession with 60% of the ball in scoring three tries within a fifteen minute period.
Coach Craig Bellamy won’t be happy that his side put themselves under pressure in the second half with handling errors inside their red zone but will be pleased that they were able to repel anything the Panthers threw at them when attacking their line.
Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith influential on the win after a short turnaround from Origin. Cronk showing no signs of any problem with his ankle which threatened his quest to play last Wednesday night.
DID THE APPRENTICE OUTPLAY THE MASTER?
Nathan Cleary made his NRL debut last night for the Panthers and all things considered, handled the top grade very well at a wet AAMI Park.
It was evident that the Storm would apply pressure to the rookie – they are the masters at that. It was evident in the first half when he had a kick charged down and towards the break lost possession near the Storm line as they rushed up on the play maker.
Despite a couple of glitches, Cleary looked NRL ready. His involvement was good as he took on the line in attack and tested the Storm back three with some good kicks. What was most impressive was his work rate in defence. Thirty-eight tackles on debut as the Storm targeted him in the line and pretty much every time he was up to the task.
On reflection Cleary’s performance had more impact than Jamie Soward’s. A relatively quiet night for the number seven in a game where you would have expected him to take the lead in attack.
With Peter Wallace likely to play the rest of the season at hooker for out of favour James Segeyaro, Cleary will have good dozen games to establish himself in the NRL ahead of 2017 where he and Te Maire Martin could likely be the halves pairing at Penrith.
SHOULD KOROIBETE’S SHOULDER CHARGE COME UNDER REVIEW?
Fifteen minutes into the second half Melbourne made an error inside their twenty and Penrith went on the counter to the right. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was scooting towards the try line when the Melbourne cover defence came across and diffused the try.
Koroibete’s effort definitely saved a four pointer which would have seen the Panthers claw back to 10-16. There was no shadow of a doubt that Koroibete led with the shoulder to bump Watene-Zelezniak into touch. Koroibebte came off second best as he clutched at his shoulder after the tackle and had to be assisted to by the Storm trainer.
Panther fans were up in arms that a penalty was not awarded.
The evidence was there for the NRL Bunker to make a call, after all shoulder charges just a few seasons ago were deemed an automatic charge by the Match Review Committee.
A tough night for Panthers captain Matt Moylan who was unimpressed with Matt Cecchin’s performance as lead referee.
PENRITH STILL TOP EIGHT MATERIAL
They may now sit outside the eight, but Penrith are still top eight material come September. Melbourne’s 24-6 victory was the biggest loss of the season, but a marked improvement on their two performances against them in 2015 where they were punished 0-20 and 10-52.
Melbourne worked over Penrith on the left and right hand edge defence in the first half to establish a half time lead. For a good part of the second half they matched it with the Storm, only to concede a Cooper Cronk try late in the game after an excellent offload from Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Penrith weren’t too bad in attack. They made good ground through the middle but just lacked that attacking option against the best defensive unit in the competition.
The mountain men need to pick themselves up off the floor and prepare well for their trip to Brookvale next Sunday against what will be a depleted Manly Sea Eagles side likely to be without Daly Cherry-Evans and Jamie Lyon.
FROM THE SHEDS
Waqa Blake in the first half went off under the concussion rule but returned to the game after passing the test.
Melbourne Storm 24
Tries: Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Morgan, Cooper Cronk
Goals: Cameron Smith 4
Penrith Panthers 6
Tries: Josh Mansour
Goal: Jamie Soward