Penrith has confirmed their Finals credentials with an impressive 21-14 win over Melbourne at Campbelltown Stadium.
A spectacular Viliame Kikau try and a Nathan Cleary field goal iced the game for Penrith, who had to battle a determined Storm and several controversial refereeing decisions to get the points.
Penrith came out of the blocks fast – employing an energetic game plan with plenty of second phase football. It paid off when Stephen Crichton grabbed the first try after 16 minutes to put the Panthers up 6-0.
The Panthers controlled the momentum of the first half but a lapse in concentration saw Felise Kaufusi cross for Melbourne with ease nine minutes short of half-time to level the scores.
A Nathan Cleary penalty goal close to half-time saw the Panthers go into the break with a narrow two point lead.
The Panthers extended their lead when Brian To’o crossed for the first try of the second half, but the 14-6 lead quickly evaporated, Melbourne levelling the scores through a Brenko Lee try and a Cameron Smith field goal.
But just when it looked like Melbourne was taking control, Kikau swooped on a Nathan Cleary bomb to dive over and break the deadlock. Cleary nailed the conversion and then a field goal to put Penrith seven in front with just a few minutes to play.
The win puts Penrith a commanding position inside the top four.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said his side was “out-enthused” by a Penrith team that appeared more interested than them.
“I’m not sure what to make of our performance to be honest,” he said.
He also praised the Panthers, saying it appeared the side had much more to offer this year than in previous seasons.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said he was feeling positive after beating both Melbourne and the Roosters this season.
“It’s always nice to get the notch on the belt when we play the best teams,” he said.
“It’s a great achievement to beat Melbourne at any time. The boys are pretty happy.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.