All the key numbers out of Saturday night’s win over the Panthers.
Ladies and gentlemen, Cameron Smith is officially the most successful player in NRL history. Saturday night’s win marked the 238th triumph of the Storm skipper’s career. That number saw Smith surpass Darren Lockyer for most wins in NRL history. Cooper Cronk also moved into third on the all-time list with 214 wins while Billy Slater now joins Norm Provan and Steve Menzies on 196 (equal ninth).
Penrith finished the first half with all the momentum but it took just 65 seconds for Storm to hit back after the break. It came courtesy of some individual brilliance from Dale Finucane who bulldozed through the Panthers line before offloading to Cooper Cronk who chewed up the remaining 30 metres in the blink of an eye to score under the posts. That try restored a 10-point buffer for Melbourne, one which the Panthers were never able to peg back.
The key to Storm’s win was their strong start, a start that included completing their first 14 sets of the game. That was a definant improvement on last week’s game against Wests Tigers that saw Craig Bellamy’s men make five errors in their opening six sets. Melbourne enjoyed as much as 75% possession in that first half. That number went down significantly though as the game wore on (ending 42-58 Penrith’s way), meaning the team will be searching for an 80-minute performance with the football next week against the Sharks.
The total number of line breaks from Storm’s outside backs on Saturday night. That number becomes even more impressive when you consider their Penrith counterparts did not break through the Melbourne line once. Suliasi Vunivalu scored a double in his return from a shoulder injury while Will Chambers was best afield, finishing the first half alone with one try, one assist, two offloads, two line break assists.
Only once have Melbourne conceded a try in the second half of games this year. That came against the Broncos in Round 3 but outside of that the Storm defence is unbeaten after half-time. Penrith had a lot more possession and territory on Saturday night but simply could not find a way through. It is a testament to Melbourne’s fitness and is a run the purple faithful will hope continues throughout the season.