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The Panthers were held scoreless for the first time in seven years as a relentless defensive performance helped the Storm to a 16-0 win and kept the minor premiership race alive.

Penrith had 55 per cent of possession and more than 50 tackles within 20 metres of Melbourne's try line but failed to score a point for the first time in a match since the Storm shut them out 20-0 in 2015.

It was Melbourne's third consecutive win, while the Panthers have now lost two of their last three games to give North Queensland hope of snatching the JJ Giltinan Shield when the top two sides meet in the final round at QCB Stadium.

The premiers went into the match without suspended stars Nathan Cleary and James Fisher-Harris and the injured trio of Jarome Luai, Dylan Edwards and Taylan May, and lost Liam Martin with an ankle injury.  

However, the Storm have also been hit hard by injures and were without star halfback Jahrome Hughes (shoulder) and strike second-rower Felise Kaufusi following the death of his father.

The decision to move Cameron Munster from five-eighth to fullback proved a masterstroke as the superstar playmaker carried the ball 194 metres from 17 runs, which included a line break, a line break assist and eight tackle breaks.

Munster break changes the momentum of the match

However, it was in defence that the Storm were most impressive and hooker Harry Grant finished with 62 tackles followed by second-rowers Tui Kamikamica (53) and Kenny Bromwich (43), lock Brandon Smith (39), interchange forward Josh King (38) and prop Jesse Bromwich (36).

The win puts Melbourne into fourth place and they will remain in the top four if South Sydney beat Parramatta on Friday night.

Match snapshot

  • It took until almost midway through the first half for the opening try but it was worth the wait as Cameron Munster and Kenny Bromwich combined to send Justin Olam racing down the left side touchline.
  • The PNG star then kicked in-field behind the Penrith defence and the ball bounced up perfectly for five-eighth Nick Meaney to score in the 17th minute.

Meaney gets the ball rolling for the Storm

  • Brandon Smith, who started at lock in a late change before kick-off, scored two minutes later when he stepped out of attempted tackles by Moses Leota and Liam Martin before swerving around fullback Charlie Staines.

The Big Cheese

  • The Storm's win was built on defence, with Olam producing a try saving tackle on Penrith winger Brian To'o in the 27th minute.
  • Prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona forced a knock-on by Viliame Kikau over the try line as Melbourne held out the premiers for three consecutive sets.
  • David Nofoaluma, who is on loan from Wests Tigers, scored his first Storm try in the 31st minute after Jesse Bromwich offloaded and a catch-and-pass movement from brother Kenny created space for the Samoan winger.

Nofoaluma scores his first for Melbourne

  • Trailing 16-0 at halftime, things went from bad to worse for the Panthers when second-rower Liam Martin went down with an ankle injury in the 51st minute and needed help to leave the field.
  • NSW hooker Api Koroisau looked certain to score but was stripped of the ball over the tryline by Meaney and Penrith coach Ivan Cleary shifted Stephen Crichton to fullback in a bid to spark his team's attack. 

Koroisau does everything but score the try

Play of the game

Justin Olam created the opening try for Nick Meaney with a perfectly placed kick after a long run down the sideline and almost laid on another for Cameron Munster in similar fashion but his work without the ball was just as influential.

With the Storm leading 12-0 in the 25th minute, the Panthers had their best scoring opportunity as Brian To'o set sail for the tryline but the bustling second-rower launched himself and knocked the NSW Origin winger over the sideline.  

Olam at it again - this time a try saver

What they said

"I felt that there was some combination issues tonight which when you play a team with a defensive unit that were totally committed it shows. It was a good lesson for our younger guys. I was just disappointed with the way they scored the points in the first half," - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Panthers: Round 22

"I thought that was our best performance for a long time. When Penrith attacked our line, that is as good as we have defended for a year or two, I reckon. I think we will probably look at our opposition on what we think is the best way to use Munster and the best way to use Nick. He is certainly a different character, Munster, but he is a great guy to have around your club and he is obviously one hell of a player. The other big thing about him is he is such a competitor; he competes on everything at training and everything in games. I think he really enjoys fullback and the freedom that brings but he is just happy to play a role that is best for the team,"- Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

Storm: Round 22

What's next

The Panthers face the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium next Thursday night before taking on the Warriors and Cowboys, while the Storm travel to Brisbane to meet the Broncos next Friday ahead matches against the Roosters and Eels.

Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards (shoulder and sternum) may be available after being a late withdrawal from the Melbourne clash but the premiers have a new injury concern after Liam Martin was assisted from the field in the second half.

Martin was on crutches and watched the last 25 minutes of the match from the bench after twisting his left ankle awkwardly.

The Panthers remain without suspended stars Nathan Cleary and James Fisher-Harris, while NSW Origin five-eighth Jarome Luai is not due back from a knee injury until the finals.

Penrith with back to back big hits

Storm coach Craig Bellamy will be hoping halfback Jahrome Hughes is back soon after suffering a shoulder injury last weekend but Cooper Johns has been doing a good job as his replacement. 

Maroons second-rower Felise Kaufusi may be available after missing the trip against Penrith following the death of his father, Taniela, earlier this week.  

 

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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