This Sunday evening at the historic ANZ Stadium, the 3X Premiership winning Storm will face off against a Panthers side who are riding a 17 match victory streak. You simply could not write it up any better than this.
For Melbourne, you have future Immortal Cameron Smith playing in what could well prove to be his last professional game of the great Rugby League ever.
Then for Penrith, their head-coach, the ever-illustrious Ivan Cleary, managing them after 5 years ago when he was given the boot by the club. This game is going to be absolutely MASSIVE!
Both these sides have had tough campaigns so far this finals series.
Melbourne toppled the Eels 36-24 in the opening round in Western Sydney. Then just last week at Suncorp Stadium, they absolutely hammered the helpless Raiders to the tune of a 30-10 score-line.
As for Penrith, they won their opening QF 29-28 against the Chookies, courtesy of a 77th min FG winner by Cleary, at the foot of the mountains. Then most recently in Homebush, they escaped the clutches of an inspired South Sydney side to prove victorious 20 points to 16.
The Storm scored 30 or more points in 4 of their past 5 games. Whilst the Panthers have scored 25+ points from 6 of their last 8 encounters. The attack alone will be an absolute beauty to witness in this one!
Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers @ ANZ Stadium – SUN 25 OCT 2020 @ 7:30PM
Melbourne Storm Last Round
At Suncorp Stadium there was simply no stopping Melbourne, as they smashed Canberra 30 points to 10. They showed up big time as they produced 5 of the games 7 overall tries and they also made 5/6 goal attempts.
They never really let the Raiders into the match. By the 9th minute, they’d already put the game away. By that point of the game, they had produced tries via Bromwich (5th min), Papenhuyzen (7th min) and Vunivalu (9th min)! They also completed 88% of their sets, good for 29/33 and they made just 4 errors throughout the match. Canberra was at 13. They were just too darn clinical in this one and that’s all there is to say about it.
Penrith Panthers Last Round
Playing out at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers survived an almighty scare as they toppled South Sydney 20-16.
Souths scored in the 72nd min via Allan to make a game of it, but ultimately it proved to be a bit too late for the opposition. And when South Sydney scored in just the 4th minute of the match, the Panthers did incredibly well to rebound and score a try of their own just 3 minutes later, via To’o. The tries ended at 3 apiece.
But Penrith kicked 3/3 conversions, as well as 1/1 PG’s. Whilst they also successfully made 377 tackles and they leaked just 3 penalties throughout the match.
Crucial to their result was Edwards try in the 67th minute, which put them in a critical 18-12 lead. And Cleary’s ensuing conversion made it an 8-point game. They know how to close out games when it matters the most! Will they be doing that against the Storm on Sunday?
Key Statistics/ Facts
The Storm has won 11 of the last 14 clashes against the Panthers. From the newest result to the oldest, their victorious score-lines have been 32-2, 28-6, 24-6, 52-10, 20-0, 24-10, 18-17, 46-6, 44-10, 26-6 and 25-10. However, the Panthers have won 2 of the last 3. Their winning scores have been 21-14 at Campbelltown Stadium and 22-16 at AAMI Park. In the Western Sydney clash, Cleary kicked the match-ensuring FG in the 76th min. And in the Melbourne clash, during one period of the game, they crossed for 4 straight tries, which helped them seal the result.
Will Melbourne’s overall form prevail? Or will the Panthers recent results prove to be crucial?
He’s had quite the season so far, in what will be his last for the Storm, it will either end up with tears of joy or tears of sadness.
It started off with him getting in trouble for breaching COVID rules and it’s ended with him being one of the hottest properties in the game and being heavily linked to both the Tigers and Bulldogs among other clubs.
The 25-year-old Winger and former Wests man has had an incredible campaign to date. According to the League Live App, from 20 games played this season, he’s crossed the white-line 16 times and he has 5 try assists. He’s averaging 133 running m’s per game, along with 3.3 tackle breaks. Absolutely freakish stuff!
He’ll be crucial to exploiting a relatively young Penrith side by putting them in damming situations where they either can’t or don’t know how to deal with his pace. His speed and his ability to create something out of nothing will be two crucial factors in Melbourne’s pursuit of winning this match.
In 2011 he coached the Warriors all the way to the Grand Final. Whilst during his previous stint in charge of Penrith, he also led them to a Preliminary Final.
However, in this big game, he’ll be aiming to do what as a coach, he’s never quite been able to do, win a Grand Final.
In 2019 Penrith finished with a -61 PD and in 9th place. This season they’ve finished in 1st place and with a +299PD! What a difference one season makes! This is just a testament to the incredible impact he’s had on the club this season and he absolutely with the right tactics in place, will give his side every chance of upsetting the much-fancied Storm.
In particularly the strategy he deploys to stop the wilding speed of Vunivalu and Addo-Carr will be critical to the outcome of the match. But if anyone can get it done, it’s Cleary.
What Should Eventuate
Melbourne have participated in 4 of the last 5 Grand Finals. As for Penrith, they last won/made a GF in 2003, 17 years ago!
Melbourne’s experience is what should ultimately deliver them the ever-crucial result here. They know what it takes to participate in and take out the big games. Whereas a lot of these young Panthers simply do not.
The Hooker battle between Cameron Smith and Apisai Koroisau will play a role in the outcome. Smith has registered 2 tries and 15 try assists this season. Whilst Api has 3 tries and 4 try assists. Both men will be primarily responsible for setting the pace of the game with both their passes and their runs. Whoever can set the tone better automatically gives their side a one-up over the opponents.
It should be an entertaining, hard-hitting, wonderful game of Footy to watch. We’re in for an absolute thriller here!
Melbourne to win 26-20.