Storm punish sloppy Panthers
The Storm never really needed to get out of second gear in disposing of an error-prone Penrith outfit 20-0 at Pepper Stadium on Saturday night.
While not really getting the rub of the green with some 50/50 calls – leading to some heated conversations between captain Peter Wallace and referee Adam Devcich – the Panthers were their own worst enemies all night.
Their completion rate at one point in the second half dipped to 40 per cent with just 10 of 25 sets completed by the home team.
The Storm, missing fullback Billy Slater as he manages a shoulder injury through the intense State of Origin period, also only got 60 minutes from halfback Cooper Cronk who went off with a suspected meniscus tear with his side coasting at 20-0 with a quarter of the match remaining, although the injury was not thought to be serious enough to put his spot in the Queensland side for Origin II in doubt.
Slater's replacement Cameron Munster had a fine game, scoring a strong solo try and saving at least one on his own line, while stand-in Penrith custodian Dallin Watene-Zelezniak had a mixed night filling in for Matt Moylan, producing three handling errors.
The Storm got off to the perfect start when five-eighth Blake Green capitalised on a scrum feed being overturned by the video referee, who noticed a touch from Isaah Yeo off a Munster grubber, the pivot taking advantage of a Cooper Cronk grubber bouncing off Sika Manu's head towards Penrith's in-goal.
It became 12-0 in the 16th minute following Munster's solo effort including a huge fend on Wallace, and Segeyaro was denied in the 28th when called held in the act of trying to force his way over from dummy half.
With their completion rate hovering around 50 per cent Penrith would have been lucky to be only 12 behind at the break but yet another error – this time from Waqa Blake, who lost the ball after being dumped hard on his back – handed the Storm a last chance before half time.
They capitalised through Green's second, the five-eighth able to stroll through a yawning gap in some ragged Penrith defence to make it 18-0 at half-time.
Needing a major form reversal in the second half Penrith got even worse, pushing passes and offloads and failing to complete their first three possessions after half-time.
A weight of possession eventually told when the Storm took two points after Jeremy Latimore was penalised for a lifting tackle in the 47th minute but their own lack of proficiency stopped them from ramming their advantage home and despite a few near misses there was no addition to the 20-0 scoreline.
Penrith's injury woes continued to be compounded: Jamie Soward was ruled out before kick-off with an AC joint problem picked up last week in a tackle from Eel Pauli Pauli; while Adam Docker lined up for his first game of the year in a comeback from a series of injuries and glandular fever but was forced off early with another head knock.
The win consolidates Melbourne's top-four billing while the Panthers slip outside the top eight at the halfway point of the season.
Melbourne Storm 20 (Green 2, Munster tries; Smith 4 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 0. Crowd 11,849. Half-time: Melbourne 18-0.