A Cooper Cronk master class has helped steer Storm to a sixth straight win with a 24-6 triumph over Penrith on Saturday night.
Just three days after playing Origin I, Cronk returned to what he does best in the purple jersey, coming up with three try assists in the opening 40 minutes to set up the win. He also added the icing on the purple cake with a breakaway try in the final minute to seal a memorable night for the purple faithful.
A clinical first half display in attack was backed up by some immovable second half defence that saw the men in purple finish the game with just 12 missed tackles as they kept the visitors at bay.
Chasing their first win in Melbourne since 2005, the Panthers burst out of the blocks and made the most of their early possession when Josh Mansour slid over in the 8th minute to score.
Melbourne had to wait until the 17th minute for their first real spark and it came via Cameron Munster who turned a kick return on his own 10-metre line into a 40m gain.
He then drew a penalty in Panther territory moments before Cronk played a cut out pass to Jesse Bromwich for his second try of the season.
Wearing the No.20, Smith then lived up to his strange jersey number with a 40-20 kick, his third of the season, to steer the momentum well and truly the way of the home side.
Storm made sure their captain’s effort count as Cronk again laid a cut-out pass, this time to Kevin Proctor, for a 10-6 lead.
He may have played Origin just three days prior but there was no way of telling as Cronk began to use AAMI Park as his own personal playground.
In the 33rd minute the mercurial halfback made it try assist number three, this time using his boot to place a grubber kick in front of Ryan Morgan who used his speed to blitz the Panthers’ defence for his first Storm try and 16-6 half-time lead.
Penrith nearly narrowed the margin seven minutes after the restart when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crossed only for the pass that sent him there to be deemed forward.
Watene-Zelezniak was nearly through again minutes later, only to be denied this time but a lunging Marika Koroibete who sent him into touch.
Panthers continued to pile on presser but Melbourne absorbed their best and then pushed further ahead when Smith converted a penalty to make it a 12-point advantage.
Some more trademark defence followed before Nelson Asofa-Solomona gave Storm fans one last reason to get out of the seats with a barnstorming run up the middle before laying the flick pass off to Cronk to seal the win under the posts.
Melbourne Storm 24
Tries: Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Morgan
Goals: Cameron Smith 3
Penrith Panthers 6
Tries: Josh Mansour
Goals: Jamie Soward