Penrith coach Ivan Cleary conceded Premiership glory just “wasn’t meant to be” after his side fell 26-20 to Melbourne in the season decider at ANZ Stadium tonight.
The Panthers’ 17-match winning streak came crashing down in the most important game of the season.
“It’s very disappointing obviously. It’s so hard to get here and the opportunities don’t come that often,” he said.
“I still can’t quite explain the game yet. I’ll need a bit of time for that.”
The game started in controversial circumstances when The Bunker awarded a penalty try to Melbourne’s Justin Olam. It was a 50/50 call at best but put Penrith on the back foot.
Two penalty goals saw Melbourne extend their lead to 10-0 and while Penrith seemed on top, the game was quickly taken from their grasp when Suliasi Vunivalu scored an intercept try that set up an unassailable 16-0 lead.
Cameron Smith dived over to score just before the break to give the Storm a 22-0 lead at the break.
The Panther had their chances in the first half but their error rate was too high, especially against a Melbourne team that loves playing from in front.
A Ryan PapenHuyzen try from a scrum five minutes into the second half appeared to put the game to bed, but the Panthers launched a spirited fightback.
They scored four tries in the final half hour and had one final shot at tying the game on full-time, but in the end the damage had already been done.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.