Sport Storm beat Penrith to reign supreme atop NRL ladder

Storm beat Penrith to reign supreme atop NRL ladder

Jesse Bromwich (right) puts the handbrake on Nathan Cleary to foil yet another ill-fated Panthers bid for the try line. Photo AAP/Julian Smith
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Melbourne are flying solo at the top of the NRL ladder after maintaining their unbeaten start with a hard-fought 28-6 win over Penrith.

With the Sydney Roosters falling to Manly on Friday night for their first loss of the season, the Storm are the only team yet to to taste defeat in 2017.

Despite the comfortable margin, they were made to work for it against the Panthers at AAMI Park.

Melbourne got off to blazing start and Penrith looked a little stunned as the home side raced to a 10-0 lead.

Will Chambers pushed his case for Queensland Origin selection when he set up the first try with a sweet backhand flick pass to winger Suli Vunivalu, who was a late inclusion after overcoming a shoulder injury.

Chambers then got one of his own after some quick hands across the Storm backline with Cooper Cronk finding his man.

But the Panthers sparked to life and dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half, crossing through five-eighth Te Maire Martin before Waqa Blake was held up over the line.

A converted Cronk try two minutes after halftime pushed the lead out to 14-6 and then the Panthers blew a golden opportunity to put some scoreboard pressure on the Storm when Moses Leota lost the ball over the tryline.

The Panthers dominated possession and territory and kept hammering Melbourne’s tryline, but the Storm backed their position as the competition’s best defence and held firm.

The bunker denied Martin a second try as he spilt the ball just short of the line and then Melbourne put the result out of doubt when speedster Josh Addo-Carr dashed 70 metres for the home side’s fourth of the night.

Vunivalu, who was the competition’s top tryscorer last season, then iced the win when he crashed over for his second just before the fulltime hooter.

Melbourne celebrated skipper Cameron Smith going past Darren Lockyer as the most successful NRL player of all time, with the win his 238th.

Coach Craig Bellamy was delighted with his team’s second half defence, describing their more than 50 tackles on their own line as “outstanding”.

But he said they needed to improve their 74 per cent completion rate.
“We were really resilient on that line but I’m not quite sure you’re going to get away with that every week,” Bellamy said.

“I was really proud of their performance defensively tonight.”

The result continued a woeful record for the Panthers, who have never won at AAMI Park and lost their past six against the Melbourne side.

But coach Anthony Griffin said the Storm weren’t just a bogey side for his team, with a winning record against most.

He lamented Cronk’s early second half try which halted his team’s momentum.

“I thought we had some periods where we built pressure and dropped the ball over the line twice and had one disallowed but the thing that disappointed me the most was how easily they got their points,” Griffin said.

– AAP