Panthers v Storm preview

Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm
Pepper Stadium
Saturday, 7.30pm

Following their worst performance in quite some time, Melbourne will be out to make amends against a Penrith side that has failed to string two wins together since the opening fortnight of the season.

Significant injury blows have been dealt to both sides with the Panthers set to miss Matt Moylan (ankle) for the next two months while the Storm's joint-leading try scorer and electrifying winger Marika Koroibete will miss the next six weeks with a fractured thumb.

While Penrith lose their star fullback the Storm will regain theirs, with Billy Slater named to return after failing to back up from Origin I to face the Roosters.

That game resulted in a dismal performance by Craig Bellamy's side who were never in the contest as they slumped to a 24-2 defeat.

Meanwhile after trailing 14-0 at half-time against the Eels, the Panthers never hit the front and eventually fell to their local rivals 26-20.

Jamie Soward has been named to take his place at five-eighth on Saturday night as the home side remains hopeful he overcome a late hit from Eel Pauli Pauli that left him with an injured shoulder. 

 

Watch out Panthers: Penrith have managed just one win over Melbourne in their past 14 clashes with the Storm. That dismal record is largely due to the fact that they simply have not been able to score against the men in purple. In those 14 games they have reached the 20-point mark only once. Their attack in general has been poor across the board this season, currently ranking 14th in the Telstra Premiership. Ivan Cleary's men must find a way to overcome that to have any chance of breaking through the purple wall which, despite Monday night's poor showing, remains the third best defence in the competition.

Watch out Storm: With just a five-day turnaround between back-to-back road games the Melbourne hierarchy knew this part of the fixture list would be a tough one to overcome. They had to endure the same scheduling in the opening two rounds of the season that resulted in a two-point loss to Manly. This time the Storm have spent the week in NSW in order to limit the demands of travel. Outside of Billy Slater who missed Monday night's game, the meeting with the Panthers will mark the third game in 11 days for the side's three other Origin stars. It is a heavy workload and one that will raise questions about their fitness heading into Saturday night.

Key Match-Up: Defence – Penrith head into Saturday night with the fourth-best ranked defence in the NRL, just behind Melbourne who sit third. However this facet of the game proved an Achilles heel last week as both teams conceding two tries in the opening minutes to leave them chasing tail. With an attack that has been lacking all season the Panthers have no choice but to lean on their steadfast defence to have any chance of toppling the Storm. That is easier said than done with a rested Billy Slater to return and looking to add to his two tries and five assists from seven games this season.

The History: Played 28; Panthers 7, Storm 21. Melbourne has enjoyed a clear dominance over Penrith, winning 13 of the last 14 games by an average margin of 15.8 points. 

What Are The Odds: Panthers v Storm.  The spare-parts Panthers side are up against it according to customers with Sportsbet. There has been four times as many dollars wagered on the Storm and a fair bit of support for the visitors to blow Penrith off the park by 13+. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au

Match Officials: Referee – Adam Devcich; Assistant Referee – Alan Shortall; Touch Judges – Steve Carrall, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea.

Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 7.30pm.

The Way We See It: Coming off such a short break it is hard to believe Melbourne will be cherry-ripe for this game but Matt Moylan's absence may be one significant injury too many for Penrith. It is hard to see the Storm putting up two horror games in a row and they may have just enough legs to get over the line. Storm by 4.