Rd. 22 Match Report
Sunday 5 August 2012 7:17 PM
Melbourne have ended a five game losing streak, defeating Penrith 46-6 at AAMI Park in front of a crowd of 9,223 on Saturday afternoon. Storm returned to form in style, piling on 34 first half points to put the game beyond doubt following the first 40 minutes of play.
Watch the Post Match Press Conference below
Cooper Cronk, Justin O’Neill and Sisa Waqa all finished the match with doubles as the visitors left AAMI Park looking for answers following Melbourne’s return to form.
Under pressure coming into the match, Craig Bellamy’s side got off to the best start imaginable. Sisa Waqa crossed the try-line inside the first minute of play to give his side a dream start. Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith were all involved in the opening set of the afternoon and the reliable combination proved decisive.
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Waqa’s try and Melbourne’s start to the match set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as the Panthers struggled to cope with a revived Melbourne defence. The visitors were stuck on zero points until the 71st minute of play as Storm controlled the match and possession from the outset. The home side denied the 15th placed Panthers any time or opportunity to work their way into the contest.
Following Waqa’s early try, which sent the home crowd into raptures, Melbourne knuckled down and got to work, displaying clinical execution which had been lacking over the previous month.
Storm backed up their opening try with repeat sets to pile the pressure on the 15th placed Panthers. Cronk’s 40/20, followed by a goal line drop out thanks to some energetic defensive work pushed Ivan Cleary’s side deep into defence.
After absorbing Penrith’s first sustained period of possession, Melbourne hit back in the best possible way. Cooper Cronk came up with his fifth try of 2012 as Melbourne doubled their advantage. Smith and Slater were again instrumental in the build up as the Melbourne attack displayed a true cutting edge.
Jesse Bromwich barged over the try line to continue the home side’s dominance whilst Sisa Waqa managed to find his second try of the afternoon thanks to some quick thinking from Billy Slater out of dummy half.
Returning from a groin injury, O’Neill extended Melbourne’s advantage heading into the main break after an acrobatic leap over Panther debutant Travis Robinson. There was more to come from Melbourne in the first half however as Cronk managed to find the try line again to see his side take a 34-0 lead into half time.
The Panthers offered a better performance in the second stanza, tightening up their defence and making it more difficult for Storm to find gaps as they did during the first period.
Watch the Penrith post match press conference below
Craig Bellamy’s side still managed to score two tries and extend their half-time lead during the second half. Matt Robinson’s try after 71 minutes opened Penrith’s account for the afternoon but it was small consolation for the visitors.
Sika Manu finished the day just as it started – with a Storm try. Manu’s last minute try put the icing on top of a Melbourne victory which sees the Storm temporarily move into second place on the NRL ladder.
Key moments - plays that made the game
1st minute: Perfect start
Melbourne got off to the best possible start, crossing the try line in the first minute of play. Smith, Slater and Cronk all combined to send Sisa Waqa over the try line, stunning the Panthers.
3rd minute: Cronk’s 40/20
Straight off the back of Waqa’s try, Cronk earned his side another set deep in Penrith territory thanks to a 40/20 kick. It set the tone for the rest of the half as Melbourne piled on 28 more points.
35th minute: O’Neill goes aerial
Justin O’Neill got in on the Melbourne act just after the half hour mark with some impressive acrobatics. O’Neill, coming back from a groin injury leapt high over Travis Robinson to extinguish any hopes of an unlikely Penrith victory.
79th minute: Manu finishes
Big forward Sika Manu gave the home crowd the finish they were after in the last minute of the match. Manu’s second try of the season handed Melbourne a 40-point victory.
Watch what Jaiman Lowe and Kevin Proctor had to say about the win in the post match Storm TV interviews here
What we learnt
Melbourne has not lost their attacking edge. The combination of Smith, Slater and Cronk, helped by the return of Gareth Widdop to the halves showed that Storm have not lost their attacking potency seen during the first half of the season. Craig Bellamy will be hoping to see more of that attacking impetus during the final month of the home and away season.
Player match up – Gareth Widdop v Lachlan Coote
Both Coote and Widdop finished the match with one try assist. The Penrith five-eighth missed a chunk of the first half after being taken from the field following a poke to the eye. Widdop on the other hand was at large during many of Melbourne’s attacks.
Melbourne 46 – Penrith 6
Tries: Sisa Waqa 1m, Cooper Cronk 13m, Jesse Bromwich 18m, Sisa Waqa 25m, Justin O'Neill 35m, Cooper Cronk 38m, Justin O'Neill 51m, Sika Manu 80m
Goals: Cam Smith 5
Tries: Matt Robinson 71m
Goals: Luke Walsh 1
Earlier, the NYC Thunderbolts held on for a 20-14 win to strengthen their chances of a finals berth
Jonathan is member of the Storm writers group. Check out his, and more profiles here