Melbourne Storm have claimed a second nail-biting victory in as many weeks, defeating Penrith 18-17 at AAMI Park in front of 13,925 fans.
In Billy Slater and Cameron Smith’s milestone match, Cooper Cronk’s field goal with under a minute left on the clock proved the difference between the two sides.
Befitting what was a classic encounter, Penrith’s never say die attitude gave the visitors a late attempt on goal after the final siren to snatch victory. Peter Wallace’s effort fell short, sending the home crowd into raptures.
After absorbing eight minutes of pressure, including three penalties and repeat sets from the Panthers to begin the match, Melbourne broke through to open the night’s scoring.
Kevin Proctor scored Storm’s first points at home for the year, spinning through the visitors’ defence to score. Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk initiated the move, with Cronk feigning left then going right to create the opportunity.
Just moments later, some brilliance from Smith out of dummy half handed his side a goal line drop out and repeat set. Melbourne capitalized with Cronk again influential in the build up. The halfback combined with Proctor and Billy Slater to isolate the left edge defence of the Panthers, allowing Mahe Fonua to find the line and take Storm to a 8-0 lead.
Penrith responded well to the double blow with a string of repeat sets and weight of possession leading to the Panthers’ opening points of the evening. Kevin Naiqama found space on the right wing before a crisp kick from Peter Wallace tied the scores up.
Melbourne again enjoyed some success down the right wing with Sisa Waqa regaining the lead in the 31st minute before Naiqama continued to cause trouble on his own wing. The late inclusion closed the gap, scoring his second four pointer of the evening.
A penalty goal from skipper Smith on the stroke of half-time handed Storm a 14-10 at the main break.
As they did in the first, Penrith began the second stanza brightly and locked the scores up just four minutes into the half through Josh Mansour. The winger silenced the home crowd after receiving a raking ball from fullback Matt Moylan.
With nearly an hour of play on the clock, 250 gamer Slater was sent to the sin bin following James Segeyaro’s line break, handing the advantage to Penrith. The Panthers took a two point lead off the boot of Wallace, electing to kick for goal following the penalty.
With one less player out on the field, Ben Hampton temporarily moved to fullback, allowing Storm to continue to make inroads.
Smith calmly slotted a penalty goal to level the scores in the 68th minute, following a penalty earned by Cronk.
With the scores locked at 16-16 Melbourne, Cronk’s field goal put the hosts ahead before Wallace returned serve, tying the scores once again.
Manufacturing another field goal chance, Melbourne put Cronk in front of the sticks for the number seven to put his side ahead for the second time in six minutes.
A late penalty to Penrith gave the visitors a chance to snatch a victory, however Wallace’s late attempt on goal after the siren fell short, handing Storm their second one point victory in as many weeks.