In what began as a free-flowing match that promised to yield a big scoreline, poor handling restricted the chances for both teams.
Melbourne started on fire, earning an early penalty then threatening the Panthers line by running it on the last.
Penrith, however, were the first to score, with Michael Jennings finding lots of space down the left, before coming back inside and finding Brad Tighe who found himself brought down from behind just five metres out however, thanks to the momentum of his tacklers, slid into the in-goal for the try.
Penrith almost had two tries in as many minutes after Shane Elford further exposed Melbourne's weak right side defence, racing away before kicking in for Lewis.
Melbourne finally got on the board in the 15th, and it came after three consecutive sets on Penrith's line, with Slater easily stepping past some tired defenders and planting the ball down under the posts.
Lachlan Coote was in the thick of things in the 28th when, after being collected in the air by Ryan Hoffman, decided to pick a fight with the player closest to him...which just happened to be the much larger Greg Inglis. The penalty remained with the Panthers, however Inglis and Coote both got a good talking to from the referees.
From that point until the end of the half, the damp conditions came well into play as neither team was capable of hanging onto the ball long enough to create any pressure, and the scoreline as a result remained at six points all.
Coming out of the half, Penrith looked the team more determined to run away with this game, after they completed their opening two sets. The Storm, by contrast, only managed to complete four plays in their opening two, losing the ball both times.
It proved third time lucky for the Storm, when in the 46th minute they finally got to their kick, which was collected by Anthony Quinn in the corner for the try.
Following the restart, Cooper Cronk kicked a beautiful 40/20, and Smith then caught the markers out of position, earning an additional two points for his team.
Penrith needed to be the next to score, and they didn't have to wait long for their chance after Aiden Tolman lost the ball following the restart.
Wade Graham then held the ball up for Lewis coming through on the angle to slice through some weak defence and dive over under the posts in the 53rd.
A dubious dangerous tackle penalty against Will Chambers at the 56th gave Michael Gordon the chance to square things up once again. The tackle will prove the most talked about subject following the game as, while it wasn't a conventional lifting tackle in which the player goes past the horizontal, is deemed dangerous as Chambers (unaided) lifted Coote up unaided a good two metres off the ground before slamming him down on his back with little to no control.
The contentious ruling proved the spark Melbourne needed, lifting their intensity and earning what would be Smith's game winning penalty goal in the 61st.
The final twenty of the second half mirrored that of the first half, with poor handling marring what had otherwise been an exciting match.
Match Details Melbourne Storm 16 def Penrith Panthers 14 Round 5 - Saturday April 11th, 2009 7:30pm Venue: Olympic Park, Melbourne Referee: Tony Archer & Chris James Sideline Officials: Adam Reid & David Abood Video Referee: Phil Cooley Crowd: 10,110 Half time: 6 all
Melbourne Storm 16 Tries: Billy Slater, Anthony Quinn Goals: Cameron Smith (4/4) Penrith Panthers 14 Tries: Brad Tighe, Luke Lewis Goals: Michael Gordon (3/3) LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Cam Smith (Storm) 2 Points: Luke Lewis (Panthers) 1 Point: Petero Civoniceva (Panthers) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening and welcome to Olympic Park for tonights clash between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers. Both teams are on the hunt for their third win of the season, having won two from the opening four rounds.
Changes aplenty for both teams, and they read as such: STORM: For the home team, Greg Inglis moves back to his favoured position of centre, and young James Maloney will make his debut at 5/8. Kevin Proctor comes off the bench to start, sending Wairangi Koopu back to the bench where Matt Cross also joins the team in number 19. PANTHERS: Matt Elliot has sent Wade Graham, Matt Bell and Paul Aiton back to the bench. Luke Lewis shifts to 5/8, Tim Grant, Masada Iosefa and Nathan Smith all come into the starting team at prop, hooker and lock respectively, and Frank Puletua drops off the bench.
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Will Chambers 6. Greg Inglis 5. Anthony Quinn 20. James Maloney 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jeff Lima 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Adam Blair 15. Kevin Proctor 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 11. Wairangi Koopu 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 16. Aiden Tolman 19. Matt Cross PANTHERS: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Michael Gordon 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Tighe 5. Shane Elford 13. Luke Lewis 7. Jarrod Sammut 18. Tim Grant 14. Masada Iosefa 10. Petero Civoniceva 11. Trent Waterhouse 12. Frank Pritchard 15. Nathan Smith Interchange: 6. Wade Graham 8. Matthew Bell 9. Paul Aiton 16. Gavin Cooper
0 min: Penrith kick off and we're underway!
2 min: PENALTY - Storm: Slater earns the first penalty, and Melbourne will start on Penrith's 40.
3 min: Melbourne ran it on the last, with Cronk throwing a long cut-out ball to create the overlap for Hoffman, who duly killed it by taking the line on.
4 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Panthers Try... Just checking for double movement after Tighe slid a long way in for the try.
4 min: TRY Penrith Panthers After Melbourne muffed it at one end, Penrith took straight back down the other through a long break down the left by Jennings, who came back inside and found Tighe backing up and carried the defence over for the try. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 6-0
5 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Panthers Try... Lewis is claiming a try, just checking for dead ball line.
5 min: NO TRY - Goal Line Dropout Lewis denied a try through the ball already being dead.
7 min: PENALTY - Storm: Penrith once again hold down in the tackle for too long, and Melbourne will get more easy metres out of their end.
8 min: After building up some momentum around the ruck, Slater loses the ball in the tackle and relieves the pressure on Penrith.
9 min: Strong run by Grant creates some space for Gordon up the middle of the ruck.
10 min: Elford unable to take the cross-field kick from Cronk, and Melbourne will get the scrum head and feed on Penrith's ten.
11 min: Poor pass from Slater at the base of the scrum is knocked down by Maloney.
13 min: PENALTY - Storm: Waterhouse clearly called offside, but makes the tackle anyway.
14 min: Smith puts Maloney through a big hole before he's pulled down a metre from the line by Sammut.
15 min: TRY Melbourne Storm It took three consecutive sets on Penriths line, but Melbourne have finally broken through, with Slater simply stepping through a few weak tackle attempts before finding himself in the in-goal. Slater didn't seem to expect to have gotten through so easy, almost running the ball dead before stopping, looking around to see where he was, and then putting the ball down. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. 6 all
19 min: Great play by Civoniceva, who found himself back in the in-goal to take a kick by Quinn on the bounce, then reeling out of a tackle to get back to the field of play.
20 min: PENALTY - Panthers: Quarter of the game gone, and Penrith finally have their first penalty.
21 min: Penrith have butchered a certain try, with Tighe losing the ball with a two-on-one overlap
22 min: Edge defence on the right looking shaky for the Storm, with Lewis breaking through and finding Elford in some space, with a cover tackle by Turner the only thing preventing a try.
23 min: Two good kicks in two minutes from Coote have yielded two goal-line dropouts for the Panthers.
24 min: Pritchard loses the ball on the second tackle, and all the pressure is released off Melbourne.
25 min: Big incision made straight up the middle by Maloney.
28 min: BIFF! Coote gets taken out in the air by Hoffman, and then decides to take exception with Inglis after he came in over the top...the look on his face shows Coote looks to be regretting his decision.
28 min: PENALTY - Panthers: Penrith get the penalty for the mid-air tackle, but both Coote and Inglis get a talking to.
30 min: Hoffman loses the ball after a big hit from Cooper. Penrith on the Storm 40.
31 min: Cooper now coughs it up in a good tackle.
31 min: A driving tackle on Koopu forces him back some five metres, and after what seems like an eternity the tacklers finally clear the ruck, and Koopu loses his grip on the ball.
32 min: Penrith continue the trend, with Coote losing it on the first tackle.
33 min: Ok, now this is just getting rediculous. To Melbourne's credit, they did manage to get to the fourth tackle before losing the ball.
33 min: Try-saving tackle by Slater denies Coote a metre from the line.
36 min: PENALTY - Panthers: Koopu gives Tighe and extra shove, and invites Penrith down to the Melbourne 30.
38 min: After forcing the mistake from Penrith, Melbourne have now coughed it up just 15 out from their line. One last chance for Penrith to take a lead into half time.
39 min: Poor kick by Lewis is well read by Slater, and that'll do us for the first half.
HALF TIME It's half time here, and in what has been an exciting game so far, the Storm and the Panthers find themselves locked up at 6 all, but the scores could be so much higher.
Defence doesn't seem to be playing a part tonight, with both teams playing expansive, exciting football and finding space left, right and centre. Handling is the only thing keeping each team in this one, with neither team seeming capable of getting through an entire set for the second half of the first period, including a three minute stretch where the ball was lost on the first tackle a total of four times.
It's anyone's game here, and whichever team is able to remove the errors from their game will go on to win this one.
Stay tuned, the second half is just minutes away!
40 min: Melbourne kick off and Penrith almost lose it on the very first!
41 min: Penrith recover to get to their kick, however Melbourne dont even get to their second with Slater losing the ball cold in the tackle.
42 min: Aiton drives forward with the legs and make his way into the in-goal with about 5 Storm defenders hanging off him.
43 min: Melbourne have had the ball twice and have lost the ball twice...not good signs for the Storm.
44 min: PENALTY - Storm: Penrith, by contrast, have got to the end of all their sets, however haven't gained a result, and in this instance have given away a penalty for being in-front of the kicker.
48 min: Melbourne looking to take full control of this game, with Cronk kicking a magnificent 40/20
50 min: PENALTY - Storm: Smith catches the markers out on the last tackle, and has opted to take the kick at goal.
51 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm
Melbourne Storm 14-6
52 min: Blair unloads the ball to an unsuspecting Tolman, who wasn't expecting it. Great chance for the Panthers to hit straight back.
53 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Graham held the ball out for Lewis who came in at an angle, and sliced straight through under the posts. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Melbourne Storm 14-12
55 min: Sammut goes for the chip n' chase and, while he doesn't get to the ball first, does earn his team another set after the Storm are unable to collect the ball.
56 min: PENALTY - Panthers: Dangerous tackle by Chambers, who lifted Coote up into the air before slamming him onto his back. Whilst not a conventional lifting tackle as Coote didn't go past the horizontal, the fact that Chambers had very little control over Coote once he was in the air is what deemed it to have been dangerous. Coote coming off the field injured, and Penrith get a free interchange after Chambers is placed on report. Gordon to take the shot at goal.
57 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith Panthers
60 min: PENALTY - Storm: Following the touch judge's advice, Referee Chris James is about to give a penalty against Nathan Smith for taking out Slater off the ball, before Luke Lewis comes forward and admits fault. Replays suggest Slater ran into Lewis and took himself out.
61 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm
Melbourne Storm 16-14
63 min: Melbourne are lifting the intensity, making big metres with each run and muscling up in defence, restricting Penrith to just 15 gained in their last set.
64 min: Lucky break for Nathan Smith who, after trying to force the pass in the tackle, lost it back where it was dived and fumbled by Hoffman. Penrith with the head and feed on Melbournes 30.
68 min: PENALTY - Panthers: Coote knocks the ball forward, however gets off lucky as he was challenged in the air by Hoffman.
70 min: Elford dives over in the corner, however it is called back for a forward pass from Lewis.
71 min: PENALTY - Storm: Penrith attack the ball in the tackle, and Smith kicks the Storm a good 40 metres downfield.
72 min: PENALTY - Storm: Proctor loses the ball while trying to play it and, after initially called a knock-on, is given a penalty for a rogue foot in the ruck. Replays, however, show no foot.
74 min: Gordon loses the ball on halfway, and Melbourne will get another chance to wrap this game up.
75 min: Elford collected Cronk's deft little grubber on his own goal-line before being smashed back into the in-goal by Proctor. Goal line dropout.
77 min: Gordon takes the kick on the full in his in-goal, and the Panthers have 80 metres to go if they want to win this game.
78 min: Iosefa's kick trickles dead, and Melbourne will look to grind this one out.
79 min: Penrith kick the ball dead, and give Melbourne the goal-line dropout. Instead of going short, they kick long and Melbourne will finish this game with the ball.