Penrith has slumped to their fifth consecutive loss but, despite what the final scoreline of 44-10 suggests, produced an improved performance against the unbeaten Melbourne at Centrebet Stadium tonight.
Penrith matched the Storm in the opening half, even leading the game at one point, but an likely try to the visitors on the stroke of half-time broke the Panthers’ hearts.
Melbourne clicked into top gear in the second half, running over the Panthers to score their ninth straight win.
Penrith have more concerns over centre Michael Jennings, with the Origin hopeful leaving the field in the second half clutching a shoulder.
The luck went all Melbourne’s way in the first half, and their opening two tries – to Matt Duffie in the 9th minute and Cooper Cronk in 23rd – could have easily been disallowed by the video referee. However, Duffie’s was awarded despite an extremely late final pass to the try-scorer, while Cronk was given the benefit of the doubt on a possible double movement.
Melbourne led 6-0 when Penrith scored their first try, with Josh Mansour crossing in the corner on debut. Mansour was a shining light for the Panthers, making his mark as a star of the future.
The Panthers went up 10-6 when Etu Uaisele crossed in the 18th minute, but that’s when the point scoring stopped for the Panthers.
Ryan Hoffman scored in the 33rd minute, before Justin O’Neill crossed for the first of three tries as the siren sounded for half-time, giving the Storm a 22-10 lead at the break.
Penrith simply couldn’t match the Storm in the second stanza, and the points piled on from one of the most exciting teams in the competition.
Despite the loss, the Panthers would be thrilled with their opening half. It was full of energy and excitement, and had they been playing anyone else, a victory may have been in their reaching.
Earlier tonight, Penrith and Melbourne drew 16-all in the Toyota Cup.