The once power aura around the Storm at Olympic Park seems to have all but vanished, with the Panthers strutting out confidently and pushing the former benchmark NRL side all the way in the entertaining clash.
It’s been nearly 4 years since the Storm have lost 2 games in succession at home and the possibility loomed large with Penrith having plenty of chances to skip away to a large early lead – but stumbling at the last hurdle several times.
When asked later, coach Craig Bellamy feels his side is struggling to adapt to the new system of dual referees. The leading coach fearing if his side can’t adjust soon, their might be serious consequences.
Bellamy not only believing the increased game speed is to blame, but also an apparent shorter 10m defence line. Something that others have yet to comment on.
The Panthers again started without Wade Graham in the run-on side and the presence of the rookie may have been enough to get more early points. The Penrith side will look back at the tape of this one and really rue the one that got away.
It was all the Panthers early, with Lachlan Coote and Frank Pritchard both starring heavily.
With gutsy wins over both Manly and the Wests Tigers, Penrith are looking much better than they did in the early Rounds of 2009.
The early see-saw match seemed to suit Penrith ideally. They don’t like the arm-wrestle, they seem to be fans of touch footy – so every raid that the Storm sent down, the Panthers counter attacked almost immediately – and at times caught the home side napping.
The latest man to get the nod at pivot for Melbourne was rookie James Maloney – the debutant getting a tough gig first up from Craig Bellamy – the coach preferring to keep Inglis in the centres and Smith at hooker.
Only 22, the young Maloney wasn’t overawed but was always going to have big shoes to fill.
With the Panthers getting an early try to Brad Tighe after 4 minutes, the Storms Cameron Smith got his side in on the points right before half time, Smith setting up Billy Slater to lock the scores at 6 a piece for the break.
The Storm started ideally in the second term, getting a try through Anthony Quinn off a Cronk bomb. The touchdown coming only minutes after the resumption of play.
The Panthers remained in the hunt, getting a try through a nice pass from Wade Graham to Luke Lewis – bringing the scores back to 14-12.
When Storm youngster Will Chambers fouled Lachlan Coote, the ensuing penalty goal allowed Penrith to lock the scores up at 14-14.
But penalties again came into play, this time Penriths Luke Lewis fouling Slater off the ball inside the final 20 minutes.
The kick from the Storm getting them clear by 2 points and ultimately sealing the deal for them.
Panther coach Matt Elliott clearly frustrated at the decision after the match.
Elliott also pondering the denied try to his side inside the final 10 minutes, stopped for a forward pass.
Elliot fearing it’s the 2nd time in 2009 his side have lost out because of poor refereeing, also mentioning the Bulldogs result.
“I’m peeved,” Elliott confirmed afterwards.
Despite the frustrations, Elliott will be buoyed by continued Panthers improvement. The side looks much more confidence and certainly has more structure and zip in their attack. With Wade Graham in the mix they are easily a much more potent side, this kid has got to be in the run on side.
For the Storm, they aren’t playing too badly. It’s simply the big plays they used to call on easily, just aren’t sticking. They’ve lost some stars, they don’t have a boom pivot to help call the shots and things will just be a tad harder while this is the case.