Melbourne Storm defeated Penrith Panthers for 16th consecutive win
“Of course he would like to have his best players, and we certainly have some changes left when we get everyone back, but I would expect better than we did today.”
In the same week that trainer Bellamy and fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen signed long-term deals to stay in Melbourne, this heavyweight fight was nothing like what was being billed a month ago.
It was almost easier to list who was available to the Panthers, rather than who was not. But without Cleary, Yeo, Api Koroisau, James Fisher-Harris, To’o and Tyrone May, never has a tabletop clash looked so lopsided.
And it has never been so quiet, the party without a crowd due to Queensland’s three-day closure to contain a virus outbreak. There was certainly not going to be any Kikau Hand moment like the third round, when the massive rower miraculously held Justin Olam in a winning inning after the siren.
It was the last time the Storm lost.
“The Panthers had a lot of players today and they will be much stronger on the court,” Bellamy said. “We know that Penrith is a strong club. Your track record in recent years [is great] and it wasn’t easy tonight, or we expected it to be easy. “
They were never going to lose this game, and certainly not after leading 18-0 at halftime. The Storm even had time for some party tricks, Josh Addo-Carr kicking outrageously across the field for teammate Dean Ieremia to score a try en route to a hat-trick.
The only blemish for Bellamy was the vision of star Nicho Hynes, bound for the Sharks, leaving the field with a leg injury … only to be replaced by Clive Churchill’s medalist Papenhuyzen. Hynes would then jog again and Harry Grant came back from a hamstring problem, as if they needed improvement.
Tevita Pangai jnr will join the Panthers this week, and it may be the smartest signing Ivan Cleary has made as his weary contingent from Origen tries to gather the energy for a raise on the eve of the final.
But can the storm also get better?
“I’d like to think so, especially with our attack,” Bellamy said. “Although we scored some points today, I didn’t think it was a strong point. It didn’t look as good as usual, but I thought our defense was excellent and that’s always an important part of your game in big games.
“There are five games before the final and there will be some twists and turns.”
MELBOURNE STORM 37 (Dean Ieremia 3, Reimis Smith, Jesse Bromwich, Harry Grant tries; Ryan Papenhuyzen 4, Nicho Hynes, goals by Cameron Munster; field goal by Papenhuyzen) defeated PENRITH PANTHERS 10 (Brent Naden, Scott Sorensen tries; Matt Burton goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Ashley Klein.
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