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2021 NRL Round Three, Panthers 12 Storm 10 – Report

Shannon Meyer reviews the big Grand Final replay….. Here’s how the game went.

SCOREBOARD

Panthers 12

Tries: Charlie Staines (29) Kurt Capewell (78)

Goals: Stephen Crichton (31, 79)

Storm 10

Tries: Brandon Smith (9) Josh Addo-Carr (64)

Goals: Cameron Munster (11)

Player of the Year Points

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3 pts – Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
2 pts – Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers)
1 pt – Dylan Edwards (Penrith Panthers)

MATCH REPORT

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1st Half

Thursday night football saw the 2020 Grand Final replay, and although the game was robbed of the brightest attacking stars from each side (Nathan Cleary and Ryan Papenhuyzen), anticipation for the game was still high. Plus fans of the underused Nicho Hynes and Matt Burton could rejoice at those players getting a chance to shine.

After a standard opening set from each side, both sides got a great attacking opportunity deep into their opponents’ territory courtesy of a clever kick from the Storm, and a Justin Olam error in good field position for the Panthers. The game was showing good signs of attacking football already.

The first points of the match came in the ninth minute after a clever steal from Tom Eisenhuth. A few plays later hooker Brandon Smith burrowed over from close range to open the scoring for the visitors. The successful conversion gave the Storm a 6-0 lead.

The first half meandered on in an entertaining arm wrestle, where both teams’ attacks were promising and threatening, but ultimately not at its sharpest. Although it’s worth pointing out at this point just how good the kicking game of Burton could be with some terrifying bombs heading into Storm territory.

Reimis Smith came within a fingertip of a spectacular try in the 22nd minute for Melbourne as he juggled it off his shoulder, but – like most of the game to that point – it fell just short.

A nice half break from the Panthers followed soon after with a half field pass to Stephen Crichton seeing the Panthers flyer in space until cover from Jahrome Hughes came on the halfway line.

By the end of the set Penrith had earned themselves another and almost scored after the repeat, but a fine Burton cut out pass to Brian To’o looked to have produced a try in the corner but Hynes did just enough to push the Panthers winger into touch. There was 15 minutes to go until half time and the score remained 6-0 to the Storm.

Penrith eventually got their first points of the night as quick hands from Jarome Luai to Dylan Edwards to Paul Momirovski to the right after a strong set up the middle saw Charlie Staines scoring in the corner after the perfect inside jink caught out both Olam and Hynes. The sideline conversion from Crichton levelled the scores.

Olam looked to have snatched the lead back for the Storm just before the break, but the try was disallowed for obstruction.

HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 6 Melbourne Storm 6

2nd Half

The second half continued in much the same way as the first half with the arm wrestle up the middle and the teams not quite finishing off some promising attack. Melbourne blew a good chance on the left as Olam’s final pass to Josh Addo-Carr went awry, and not long after Hynes produced a try saver.

After a string of penalties against Melbourne, the Panthers had a relatively easy penalty goal shot for Crichton to break the deadlock, but the replacement kicker missed the chance and with 55 minutes gone it was still 6-6.

A Penrith mistake handed the Storm great attacking position to break the second half deadlock, and they required just the first play to score as they went left from the midfield scrum and Cameron Munster found a looping Hynes who found a flying Addo-Carr who scored easily in the left corner. Munster missed the conversion and the Storm’s lead remained at four points with 13 minutes to play.

The two teams continued the arm wrestle and both sides had good chances to score, but both sides came up short on each occasion, with Addo-Carr the closest as he was bundled into touch.

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With three minutes remaining, Luke Capewell lit up Panthers Stadium with a fine jinking run and burrowing run from 10 metres out: a big outstretched arm slammed the ball into the turf and set up a potential match-winning conversion for Crichton. And the fill-in goalkicker duly converted to see the Panthers hit the front for the first time for the evening with around two minutes to go. This was after the Storm failed to clean up a relatively easy last tackle kick and gifted Penrith the ball back. It made Craig Bellamy quite upset.

The Melbourne coach was to get more upset just a few seconds later after a successful Storm short kick off. Although the Storm got the ball back, it appeared that it should have been a Storm penalty for offside after a knock-on from the short kick off found another Penrith player. A Captain’s Challenge was denied, but a final look at the video looked like it may have been a correct challenge. The decision was made and Bellamy went ballistic in the coaches box.

But Melbourne still had a scrum, and 30 seconds on the clock to steal the win back from Penrith. And it looked like they had with the last play of the game as Olam looked to have crashed over on the left after the ball went from one side of the field to another for the last tackle of the game.

The video referee was engaged and “No Try” was sent upstairs, but it looked close. At first it looked like the try was going to be pulled up for obstruction on Viliame Kikau in defence, but the play moved on but picture Kikau on the ground at this point. For a few passes later Olam had stormed onto the ball and crossed the line but the video showed it was denied due to a very large arm being between the ball and the ground. The arm belonged to Kikau as the Panthers’ saviour.

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It was a thrilling end to what was another great Thursday night contest and another great clash between these two sides. A grand final replay replay wouldn’t be a bad thing come October based on recent clashes.

Penrith deserved the win no doubt, fighting right until the end and getting the reward. But Melbourne will rue a lack of quality in the final plays as they could – and probably should – have been a little further ahead going into the last few minutes.

It is the first time since August 2018 that the Storm have lost two in a row. Just to make Craig Bellamy a little happier.

FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 12 Melbourne Storm 10

Injuries

Dylan Edwards (Panthers) – broken hand
Tom Eisenhuth (Storm) – rib cartilage

Match Review Committee

Stephen Crichton (Panthers) – Grade 1 Dangerous Contact Neck/Head – Early Plea $1150.

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