The NRL Season came to a close as the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm clashed in a barnstormer at ANZ Stadium in the Grand Final.
Despite a bright start from the Panthers, it was the Storm who crossed first in the fourth minute.
Josh Addo-Carr managed to get the ball offloaded back inside to Justin Olam, who burrowed underneath Tyrone May.
However, the ball come into contact with May’s boot, with the centre kicking at the ball illegally.
This gave Melbourne an early penalty try.
It didn’t take too long for the Panthers to hit back though.
On the last tackle, Jahrome Luai opted to pass the ball which found Josh Mansour who dotted down in the corner.
However, in the build up, Stephen Crichton obstructed Brenko Lee in the defensive line and the try was disallowed.
Both teams began making uncharacteristic errors, but in the 16th minute, Penrith went close once more.
Crichton looked to power over the line, but was brought down short before being held up over the line.
Just after the 20th minute, Viliame Kikau picked up the ball from an offside position, just 30-metres from his own line.
This allowed Cameron Smith to convert and make it an eight-point lead.
Fisher-Harris was the next to concede a penalty after a late hit on Brandon Smith, once again, Cameron Smith converted to make it 10-0 to the Storm.
Brandon Smith had to leave the field for a Head Injury Assessment, with Christian Welch already off the field for his HIA.
The Panthers managed to get to with ten-metres of the Storm line once again, but Nathan Cleary’s loose pass was picked out by Suliasi Vunivalu, who despite hitting the deck, regained his feet and raced away 80-metres to score.
More ill-discipline from the Panthers was allowing the Storm the chance to extend their lead further.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona get to within inches of the line, before a quick play the ball allowed Cameron Smith to try and get the ball away early.
Api Koroisau knocked the ball out the hands of Smith, who regained the ball and slid over the line for a third try.
He hooker converted his own score to make it 22-0 at the break, and also break the record for total Grand Final points with 44.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 0-22 Melbourne Storm
Five minutes into the second half, following a knock-on from Moses Leota, Ryan Papenhuyzen scored directly from the scrum.
On his own 30-metre line, the full-back showed the ball to Asofa-Solomona before racing around the outside of Nathan Cleary and accelerated all the way down the field to score.
Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers, when with half an hour to go, Vunivalu appeared to grab his second.
However, on second viewing, the winger couldn’t quite ground Hughes’ kick on the bounce.
Just two minutes later, Penrith appeared to pull a score back when Isaah Yeo put in a last-second kick which was grounded by Brian To’o in the corner.
Despite shouts of obstruction from the Storm, which were correct, the try was awarded to give the Panthers a slimmer of hope.
Cleary then converted from the touchline to cut the deficit to 20-points.
With 12 minutes to go, Penrith picked up a second.
After Brett Naden beat four tackles on the right edge, the ball was spread to Crichton on the left, and the young centre pushed past Brenko Lee and dropped over the line to score.
With ten minutes to go, Cleary put in a short kick for Kikau to chase, but the second-rower was taken out by Hughes, who was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul.
With less than ten minutes on the clock, Melbourne would finish the game with 12-men.
In the next set, Luai floated a pass over the top for Josh Mansour who dotted down on the left wing.
With the Storm only leading by ten, they need they would have to hold on in defence to avoid losing the game.
The game was not over though, as Penrith came close in the 78th minute, but Koroisau’s fifth tackle kick was cleaned up by Papenhuyzen before Mansour could get there.
The Storm would end the game with 11-men as Brandon Smith was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul.
Nathan Cleary ran the ball and stepped back inside Cameron Smith before beating three tacklers to power over.
The Panthers rejected the kick and with three to go, the Panthers would get one final play to score, with a two-man advantage.
The ball was being thrown around all over the park by the Minor Premiers, but Felise Kaufusi manage to grab the ball and bring the game to an end.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 20-26 Melbourne Storm
Edwards, Mansour, Crichton, May, To’o, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo
Interchanges: Naden, Capewell, Leota, Tetevano
Tries: To’o, Crichton, Mansour
Goals: Cleary (2/3)
Papenhuyzen, Vunivalu, Lee, Olam, Addo-Carr, Munster, Hughes, J. Bromwich, C. Smith, Welch, Kaufusi, K. Bromwich, Asofa-Solomona
Interchanges: B. Smith, Faasuamaleaui, Finucane, Hynes
Tries: Olam (penalty), Vunivalu, C. Smith, Papenhuyzen
Goals: C. Smith (5/6)
Referee: G. Sutton
Touch Judges: C. Butler, T. Smith
Video Referee: S. Chiddy
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)