The Melbourne Storm have been humbled by the Penrith Panthers in Brisbane, with the reigning premiers cruising to a record-breaking 32-6 victory on Saturday evening.
Penrith dominated the Magic Round’s blockbuster clash at Suncorp Stadium, with the Storm looking worryingly ineffective without superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen among their ranks.
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Melbourne winger Nick Meaney dived over for the Storm’s only try in the 17th minute, but from then on it was a massacre.
It was Penrith’s biggest win over Melbourne in NRL history, and the Storm’s largest defeat against any side since 2014.
Speaking to Channel 9 after the 26-point defeat, Melbourne five-eighth Cameron Munster claimed that the Storm “looked like an under-12s team”.
“We were poor,” he admitted.
“Didn’t really care who we had out. Still had a good enough team to give the Panthers a shake.
“We can whinge about the weather or whinge about the slippery ball, but we were poor tonight and that’s not us, especially against a good side (in) Penrith.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and play a lot better against the Cowboys, otherwise it’ll be the same result.
“Pretty disappointing result, and my performance, as well.
“We kept getting into the pressure kind of footy we wanted to play, but we just kept giving them piggybacks and letting them out of their own end. When you’re doing that against Penrith they’re going to make you pay … when Penrith’s got 60 per cent of the ball they’re going to put a lot of points on you, and they did tonight.
“We were poor. We looked like an under-12s team.
“We need to go back to the drawing board.
“I can’t wait for next week. Far out.”
The relentless Panthers showed no mercy on Saturday, with on fire back-rower Viliame Kikau providing plenty of power and panache in the top of the table clash.
The Storm simply had no answers to his array of skills.
“It is probably a game we needed after three or four weeks where we won really well. That was a good comedown for us tonight and we got what we deserved,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“Perhaps we weren’t going as good as other people thought. Hopefully we will learn from that.”
Moses Leota, Isaah Yeo and the Panthers forwards as a unit dominated. All-round it was as good a performance as coach Ivan Cleary, watching from Sydney after undergoing a knee operation, could have hoped for.
Already without Papenhuyzen and Reimis Smith due to injury, the Storm lost star half Jahrome Hughes on game day to a calf complaint.
Marion Seve (centre), Cooper Johns (half) and Tui Kamikamica (bench) were all playing their first NRL games of the season and the fast and clinical play of the Panthers was a shock to their system.
Penrith had their foot on the Storm’s throat early to take a 12-0 lead inside 11 minutes and never took it off.
One piece of flying Fijian wizardry by Kikau lit up the stadium. Cleary put up one of his inch perfect bombs and Kikau, with the agility of a gazelle, leapt above hapless Seve and planted it with the softest of silky hands for a Magic Round try for the ages in front of 46,454 fans.
Nathan Cleary’s 12 points from six goals took him to 1108 career points, past Greg Alexander (1104) and behind only Ryan Girdler (1572) on Penrith’s all-time point scoring list.
After being unhappy with aspects of his play in last week’s loss to the Eels, the Panthers half was back to his best and in combination with Luai, who set up two tries himself, controlled the game from start to finish.
“It is always exciting to have the challenge of coming up against the Storm who were red hot, and us coming off the back of a loss,” Cleary said.
“It was a great opportunity for all of us to improve on last week. I thought me and Romey (Luai) combined well, the best in a while. That is a template for us going forward, get him the ball in the right places to do his magic.
“Kiks had a great game. It is freaky some of the things he can do. He is one of the best defensive back-rowers in the comp’ and gets a lot of confidence from that. Then you see his touches in attack. It is hard to stop.”
The Panthers will next face the Sydney Roosters at the SCG on Saturday, May 21, with kick-off scheduled for 7.35pm AEST.
— with Joel Gould, NCA NewsWire