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Dawn of a new rivalry: The greatest Storm v Panthers clashes

Melbourne and Penrith will meet for the 39th time in NRL history on Saturday afternoon and for many the clash between last year's grand finalists has again come a week early. 

The Storm have a healthy 28-10 record against the Panthers but there have been some thrilling finishes. 

NRL.com takes a look back at some of the best matches involving Melbourne and Penrith since the Storm's foundation year of 1998.

Melbourne v Penrith – Top 10 

Round 7, 1998 – Storm make a statement with inaugural win

Melbourne might've been the NRL newcomers but were anything but shy in announcing their arrival with seven wins in eight games to start their inaugural season.

One of those matches was against the Panthers, who narrowly avoided the wooden spoon in 1998.

A double to Melbourne's John Carlaw and tries to Paul Bell and Robbie Kearns fended off any threat from Panthers to win 22-14. 

Storm v Panthers - Preliminary final

Round 17, 2000 – Panthers get first graveyard win

After dropping their opening four games of the season, Melbourne were on the climb from 14th towards the finals with nine wins and a draw until their meeting with Penrith in May (the season running early in the year ahead of the 2000 Olympics). 

The Panthers, who were enjoying a mid-season purple patch of their own, took a 23-16 lead with a double to Shane Elford among the highlights.

Melbourne hit back with a fourth try through Danny Williams but an off afternoon with the boot from Tasesa Lavea ensured the Panthers would hang on and secure their first win at Olympic Park. 

Round 5, 2004 – Panthers prove title worth

The Panthers may have won the competition in 2003 but one thing they couldn't do was beat Melbourne in their two meetings during their premiership year, so they had a point to prove early in 2004.

A crowd of 19,214 crammed into Penrith's suburban stadium for their second home game of the year and witnessed a high-scoring contest on a Sunday afternoon.

Amos Roberts crossed for a double as the Panthers skipped to an 18-6 lead before the Storm fought back with Matt King getting over the line twice.

Melbourne set up a grandstand finish but the reigning premiers held on to make a small statement with a 30-26 win.

Round 12, 2006 – Cronk's golden field goal sinks Panthers

A field goal to Cooper Cronk with 47 seconds left in extra time proved the difference in a thrilling contest between the two sides at Olympic Park in 2006.

It was the third time in the opening 12 rounds that Penrith had featured in golden point after a late try to Greg Inglis tied the game up late.

Luke Lewis was enormous for the Panthers at five-eighth but threw an intercept pass for Matt Geyer to run the length of the field. 

Cronk sent Jake Webster over before half-time before Michael Gordon put Penrith back in front in the 63rd minute.

Field goal attempts from Cronk, Cameron Smith and Steve Turner had no success before the Storm halfback booted them home in the final minute. 

Cooper Cronk celebrates a match-winning field goal against Penrith in 2006.
Cooper Cronk celebrates a match-winning field goal against Penrith in 2006. ©NRL Photos

Round 5, 2009 – Maloney's Storm debut one to remember

Melbourne were looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at Olympic Park for the first time since 2005 after the Titans stunned them at home a week earlier.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy handed an NRL debut to James Maloney with the late bloomer immediately adding some impact for the side. 

Penrith started their campaign with Luke Lewis in the halves alongside Jarrod Sammut for a 2-2 record and were searching for their first win against Melbourne in four years.

Nothing split the teams at half-time before a late penalty goal from Cameron Smith put the Storm in front and they defended their line for the final quarter of the game. 

James Maloney in his NRL debut against Penrith in 2009.
James Maloney in his NRL debut against Penrith in 2009. ©NRL Photos

Round 9, 2013 – Panthers defy odds 

Penrith were languishing in 13th and heavily against the odds to beat Melbourne given their losing streak to the Storm had stretched to 11 matches since 2005.

However, the Panthers came out firing against a near-strength Storm outfit with three tries in the opening half – all of which weren't converted from out wide.

David Simmons crossed twice on the right edge while Travis Robinson scored from a Luke Walsh kick on the left to set up a 12-0 lead.

An irate Craig Bellamy let his team know they were in for a battle at half-time but despite holding the Panthers scoreless in the second half, they couldn't respond with points themselves as the streak ended.

Round 2, 2014 – Cronk's pair of field goals sinks Panthers

Melbourne were coming off a shock finals exit in 2013 and faced a Penrith outfit looking to improve under Ivan Cleary after two seasons of failure.

Both sides traded three tries and two goals each to set up a 14-14 scoreline late before Cooper Cronk nailed his first field goal attempt to give the Storm a one-point lead.

Not to be outdone, the Panthers hit back with 90 seconds left with a field goal through Peter Wallace.

However, some genius play from Cameron Smith, who found space to kick the ball out on the restart, earned the ball back for his side before Cronk slotted another one point.

The Panthers were given a chance on the siren to kick a penalty goal after the Storm muddled up a short restart but Wallace's long-range attempt fell short.

The match was a memorable one for Billy Slater, who celebrated his 250th game with a sin-bin in the second half.

Billy Slater in action against Penrith in 2014.
Billy Slater in action against Penrith in 2014. ©NRL Photos

Round 25, 2018 – Ciraldo's Panthers end Storm's minor premiership hopes

A final-round match with plenty to play for with Melbourne eyeing the minor premiership and Penrith looking to lock in a home elimination final.

Anthony Griffin's sacking in August brought interim coach Cameron Ciraldo into the fold and the rookie Penrith mentor did what no other could do since 2005 – beat the Storm in Melbourne.

While the scoreline would suggest Penrith held on to a six-point lead for victory, an off-night with the boot from Nathan Cleary (1/6) flattered the Storm, who conceded five tries.

The Panthers were also forced to deal with the sin-binnings of Josh Mansour and James Tamou on separate occasions but held their nerve defensively.

Mansour and Waqa Blake scored doubles in the win while Christian Crichton's intercept try late in the game helped secure the result.

Match Highlights: Storm v Panthers - Round 25, 2018

Grand final, 2020 – Experienced Storm end Panthers' dream run

A grand final result that sits freshest in our memory banks.

Penrith entered their first decider since 2003 as minor premiers following a 17-game winning streak with only Melbourne standing in their way.

The Storm had all the experience and led by Cameron Smith were always going to be a tough opposition given their success in the past.

A 28-0 scoreline after 45 minutes stunned the Panthers with Smith's try on half-time and Ryan Papenhuyzen's runaway effort making it a one-sided contest.

Penrith, to their credit, set up a grandstand finish with four tries in the final 28 minutes but their poor start brought heartache for Ivan Cleary's side

Extended Highlights: Panthers v Storm

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Round 3, 2021 – Kikau try-saver lands Panthers revenge

Penrith didn't have to wait long for a grand final rematch but the clash was nothing like the night in October with Nathan Cleary and Clive Churchill Medal winner Ryan Papenhuyzen both missing for the clash.

The retirement of Cameron Smith was another notable change but nevertheless, both sides put on a show to ensure the rivalry between both clubs was starting to build.

An opening try to Brandon Smith set the tone early for Melbourne before Charlie Staines levelled the scores from out wide.

The Storm looked to have had the result in the bag until a 78th-minute try to Kurt Capewell snatched Penrith the lead.

Not a team to go away without a fight, Melbourne had one last chance to snatch victory but the hands of Viliame Kikau held Justin Olam up over the line in one of the more miraculous finishes of the season.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Storm

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