It was billed as Super Saturday, the game of the season. A Covid outbreak in Queensland had other ideas. As a result, all three Saturday games were moved to Sunday. An empty Suncorp stadium was the stage for the Melbourne Storm’s emphatic win over the Penrith Panthers. The score was 37-10 but it could have been a wider margin.
Melbourne beat Penrith 37-10
Melbourne attacked from the start and were two tries up after 20 minutes. Their right edge attack proved lethal with Reimis Smith and Dean Ieremia going over. The depleted Panthers didn’t stand a chance and after Ieremia’s second try plus a Ryan Papenhuyzen penalty, the score stood at 18-0 at halftime. Ivan Cleary was again reluctant to blame his side’s effort but did concede their “resolve” was missing. The Panther’s coach said, “throughout the night our defensive resolve wasn’t good enough…it’s not consistent to our performance and who we are.” Penrith have built their season on defence. However, during this game the Storm overtook the Panthers as the best defensive side in the competition. It looked as though Penrith could have been kept scoreless until the last 10 minutes. Brent Naden and Scott Sorensen scored consolation tries after Melbourne had taken their foot off the gas.
The Panthers were missing five of their key men which was undoubtedly a factor. Brian To’o, James Fisher-Harris, Api Koroisau, Nathan Cleary, and captain Isaah Yeo were all absent. “Of course you’d like to have your best players. We’ve certainly got a few gears left in us when we get everyone back,” Cleary lamented post-match. Melbourne were missing Nelson Asofa-Solomona from their strongest line-up but their depth is frightening. Leader scorer Josh Addo-Carr was quiet against Penrith and yet the Storm put on six tries.
March to the Finals
Following the 27 point win over Penrith, Melbourne now have the largest points differential of all time. The 1935 Eastern Suburbs +442 has been overtaken by Craig Bellamy’s men; +465 with five games still to play (https://wwos.nine.com.au/nrl/). The reigning premiers are relentless and have now beaten three of the sides below them by 50, 46, and now 27 points respectively.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ 52-14 demolition of St George Illawarra put them level with Penrith in second place. Penrith and Souths face off before the finals. The Rabbitohs attack is second only to Melbourne, but they have conceded the most points of the top 6. Penrith will have Yeo and Koroisau back for Round 21 and will pray on the fitness of Nathan Cleary before finals football gets underway. Ivan Cleary claimed his star half-back son could have featured “if we were playing semi-finals.”
Speaking on Channel Nine, former Panthers coach Phil Gould said “if they (Panthers and Rabbitohs) want to beat (the Storm) in the premiership, is they’ve got to start planning now.” He added, “they’ve got to start practicing now because Melbourne Storm’s game is perfected.” The Storm extended their club record to 16 consecutive wins on Sunday.
With a favourable run, in it is conceivable that they don’t lose again before the finals. It looks as though the only thing that can stop back-to-back Melbourne Storm ‘Premierships’ is Australia’s worsening Covid crisis.
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