The Penrith Panthers have put in a strong defensive effort to take their first ever victory at AAMI Park - and their first win in Melbourne since 2005 - with a 22-16 triumph over the Storm in front of over 20,000 fans at AAMI Park.
Penrith were looking to end a two game losing streak and a number of weeks of poor performances, their task wasn't an easy one as they had to beat the Melbourne Storm a side they had not beaten since 2013 and at a venue they had never tasted succes at. The Storm were looking to secure their seventh minor premiership and without three key players it was going to be as good as any for the Panthers.
Melbourne got a run of three early penalties and they took the lead through a Cameron Smith penalty goal after just six minutes. The Panthers then stunned everyone after they absorbed huge amounts of pressure when they took the lead and scored the first try. The try came through Panthers winger Josh Mansour who opted to take advantage of space on the outside of the play the ball in the corner and got the ball down in the corner. Nathan Cleary struck the uprights with the conversion and the Panthers lead 4-2.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Josh Mansour turned from hero to villian when he was controversially sin binned for a professional foul after being ruled that he held back Justin Olam from getting to a kick in the ingoal. Replays showed the contest looked to be shoulder to shoulder which is legal but Steve Chiddy ruled Mansour used his arm and the Panthers winger was sent to the sin bin.
The penalty count continued to mount against the Panthers and the pressure continued to mount but their defence was standing tall and Justin Olam was denied a try when he was ruled to have put a foot in touch and the Panthers survived again. The Storm finally cracked the Panthers line in the 27th minute when Felise Kaufusi went through a gap and the Storm took the lead back. The Storm again were being helped up field with the ill-discipline of the Panthers. The Storm elected to go for penalty goal after getting their tenth penalty of the game and Cameron Smith had a rare miss from close-range when he hit the posts. The missed penalty goal didn't hurt the Storm too much because just two tackles later Gerard Sutton found an eleventh penalty against the Panthers and James Tamou was given ten minutes in the sin bn after being called offside. Cameron Smith put the penalty goal over to extend the lead for the Storm.
Two late penalties for the Panthers helped them upfield and Nathan Cleary opted to give his side a much needed breather and waste some time off the clock and the Panthers closed the gap to four points and the Storm took a 10-6 lead into the break.
The second half was a completely different affair with just three penalties blown in the second half compared to the fifteen blown in the first. The Panthers came out for the second half and looked fired up and they levelled things up in the 44th minute when they turned on the class after the Panthers elected to go left and a great no look ball from Kikau to Waqa Blake put the centre away down the sideline before finding Josh Mansour who had his second try of the game.
The Storm had a second try of the half knocked back by the bunker when Justin Olam was again denied by a call from Touch Judge Kasey Badger who tipped referee Peter Gough in sending his second attempt at a try to the bunker on a live call of No Try. The replays showed Olam had his hand in touch when he grounded the ball so the bunker put up the red lights. The Panthers were then able to extend their lead when an awkward looking kick from James Maloney was knocked backwards by Justin Olam and Waqa Blake got to the ball first and grounded it. Nathan Cleary missed a third conversion from out wide but the Panthers were in the lead.
Things kept turning the way of the visitors who took advantage of luck when James Maloney aimed a kick towards the touchline which ricocheted off a Storm player and a double kick through from Cleary went out to Waqa Blake who had to juggle the catch but he held on and got the ball down. The fifth try of the game for the Panthers was piece of brilliance by Christian Crichton who made a magnificent dive that wouldn't have been out of place at the MCG across the way from AAMI Park. The Panthers centre made a last ditch effort to dive for an intercept off a Cheyse Blair pass and he took it and raced away to score for the Panthers. A bad night with the boot for Cleary left the Storm with an outside chance of getting the game to at least Golden Point.
The Storm set up a grandstand finish when Scott Drinkwater ran through a gap off a Kenny Bromwich offload and Drinkwater scored untouched. The Panthers had to defend their line but their defence stood up once again and they held on for the 22-16 win.
Next weekend, the Storm will be back at AAMI Park for their qualifying final meanwhile the Penrith Panthers have booked in a "home" final for their elimination final.