Brendan Wood reviews the Penrith Panthers 21-14 win over the Melbourne Storm on Friday night. Here’s how the game went:
|17th||Try – Stephen Crichton (Panthers)||Panthers 6-0|
|’31st||Try – Felise Kaufusi (Storm)||6 All|
|38th||Penalty Goal – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)||Panthers 8-6|
|50th||Try – Brian To’o (Panthers)||Panthers 14-6|
|56th||Try – Brenko Lee (Storm)||Panthers 14-12|
|60th||Penalty Goal – Cameron Smith (Storm)||14 All|
|63rd||Try – Viliame Kikau (Panthers)||Panthers 20-14|
|77th||Field Goal – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)||Panthers 21-14|
After a tight opening 15 minutes, it was the Panthers who opened the scoring. Jerome Luai threw a cut-out pass for Josh Mansour to break the line, who drew the fullback and passed inside for Stephen Crichton to score. The Panthers gained some momentum off the back of this and forced some repeat sets out of the Storm. They couldn’t cross the line again however as the Storm’s defence stood firm.
After weathering the Panthers’ attack, the Storm got back in the contest and eventually got on the board themselves. Cameron Munster double-pumped a pass to Felise Kaufusi who dragged a defender across the line to score. Just as it looked like the scores would be all square at the half, Nathan Cleary converted a penalty goal in the shadows of the break to put the Panthers up 8-6.
The Panthers came out of the blocks quickly in the second half and had the Storm under pressure from the get go. They were able to steal their second try when they spread the ball to the right edge and got an overlap. Brian To’o scampered over the line to beat the Storm cover defence and extend the Panthers’ lead. However, the Storm would not die wondering.
They came back hard in the next few sets and managed cut the lead back to two through Cameron Munster again. He fooled the defence with a dummy and threw a pass for Brenko Lee to score untouched. In the following set they forced an error out of the Panthers and were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts. Cameron Smith converted the penalty goal to level the scores at 14 all.
But the momentum kept swinging, as Viliame Kikau would return to the fray and leave his mark on the game in a big way. At the end of a Panthers attacking set, Nathan Cleary put up a bomb and Kikau raced through to catch the ball and dive over to score in one motion. With the Panthers again in the lead, they forced an error out of the Storm to get the ball in good field position.
While they didn’t manage to score on their first attempt, after some back and forth sets eventually Nathan Cleary got himself into position and nailed a 30 metre field goal despite being under immense pressure. The Panthers held on in the final few minutes to secure a rare win against the Storm 21-14.
There were plenty of highlights, but Nathan Cleary’s kicking game in the last 20 minutes was first class. Throughout the course of the game the Penrith halves executed their kicking game almost to perfection. They forced plenty of repeat sets to tire out the Storm and create opportunities to score. After the Storm bounced back to make the score 14 all, Cleary stepped up.
Firstly, he put up an attacking bomb which landed right on the try line, which gave Viliame Kikau the chance to catch the ball over the line and get them back in front. Finally, he was able to ice the game by kicking a perfect field goal from 30 metres out with plenty of Storm defenders in his face.
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Matt Burton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Moses Leota 17. Billy Burns
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Justin Olam 4. Brenko Lee 19. Marion Seve 6. Cameron Munster 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 14. Brandon Smith 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane Bench: 10. Christian Welch 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona