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Storm stun Panthers with first round win

Reimis Smith of the Melbourne Storm scores the only try during the NRL Round 1 match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers.

Reimis Smith of the Melbourne Storm scores the only try during the NRL Round 1 match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers. Photo: AAP

Melbourne have won a grinding arm-wrestle against Penrith to extend coach Craig Bellamy’s NRL opening round winning streak.

Bellamy’s record now stands at 22 seasons without a first round loss, with his Storm troops overcoming the three-time defending champions 8-0 at AAMI Park on Friday night.

It was the first time since 2022 that Penrith had been kept scoreless, with Melbourne also responsible for that result.

After three losses to the Panthers last year, including a thumping 34-point defeat in the preliminary final, it was sweet revenge for the Storm.

Bellamy lauded the gutsy effort by his team to shut the Panthers out, with new skipper Harry Grant leading the way with 34 tackles.

“I don’t think we played that well but we were really gutsy,” Bellamy said.

“We had a lot of a lot of tackles to be made in our 20 metre area and we were out on our feet there a few times, but we just kept finding a way to to keep turning up so that was the really pleasing part.”

The game was effectively decided in the space of two minutes in the second half when Penrith were denied a try in the 48th minute with the bunker ruling obstruction.

In the subsequent set of six, Melbourne scored down the other end with Jonah Pezet, in for injured playmaker Cameron Munster, putting up a pin-point bomb. It was batted back by Xavier Coates to Reimis Smith who dived across the tryline.

With both teams turning in massive defensive efforts, it ended up being the only try of the night, as unheralded forwards Joe Chan and Josh King and makeshift centre Nick Meaney stood up for Melbourne.

Storm prop Tui Kamikamika blew a chance to ice the match when he spilt the ball while transferring it between his hands as he tried to ground it.

The score was just 2-0 at halftime, with both teams racking up six errors each while the Storm’s completion rate was a woeful 59 per cent, and Penrith’s not much better at 73.

The Panthers had back-to-back sets but the Storm’s goal-line defence proved impenetrable, with star halfback Nathan Cleary unable to pick a hole for his troops.

In a positive note for the Panthers, Taylan May showed he’d lost none of his pace in his return to the NRL after suffering an ACL injury during the pre-season last year.

His break set up the disallowed try for Soni Luke, which was the closest the Panthers came to scoring.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said it was a frustrating night for his team, who have now lost back-to-back matches following their World Club Challenge defeat by Wigan.

“We just can’t quite put it together, but that’s part of building your season and trying to get some consistency throughout the 80 minutes,” he said.

“We looked alright, actually the first half, with the ball, but then we just kept dropping it and just couldn’t maintain any sort of pressure.”

–AAP

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