A Cooper Cronk field goal was the difference as the Melbourne Storm edged out the Penrith Panthers 18-17 in a thrilling game of football at AAMI Park tonight.
A flurry of early penalties against the Storm meant the Panthers had all the early ball in the first half. It was only some trademark Melbourne defence that was able to hold them out despite Penrith holding over 80 per cent of possession at one point.
Penrith weren't able to make the most of their chances but Melbourne had no such problems. Melbourne's first real opportunity on the Penrith line resulted in points when Kevin Proctor ran through some weak Penrith defence in the 10th minute to make the score 4-0.
Only four minutes later Penrith's left side defence was tested once again and Mahe Fonua went over in almost the exact same spot in the 14th minute to make it 8-0. Cameron Smith missed his second conversion of the night, keeping the Panthers in touching distance.
A couple of penalties against the Storm gave their opposition a chance to test their line and Kevin Naiqama happily obliged by strolling over into the corner virtually untouched to bring up the Panthers first points of the night. A sideline conversion from Wallace made the score 8-6, but Melbourne replied almost immediately when Sisa Waqa scored just three minutes later. Cameron Smith missed his third conversion of the match to keep the score at 12-6.
Kevin Naiqama went over for his second in the 35th minute and was denied by a dubious forward pass call just before half time that would have given him a first half hat-trick. A Melbourne penalty goal right on the siren took the scores to 14-10 in Melbourne's favour as the players went into the sheds for half time.
When Matt Moylan threw a long ball to put Josh Mansour into the corner for a converted try just 3 minutes into the second half it looked like being another try-filled half but that would be the last four pointer of the game.
One of the big talking points of the game was Billy Slater being sin binned on 58 minutes in his 250th game. In what seemed a tough call, Slater was ruled to have held down James Segeyaro after he had made a long break down field but the Panthers were unable to take advantage with the extra man.
As the rain kept pouring, the match turned into an old fashioned wet weather grind. The teams traded penalty goals with Wallace kicking one in the 59th minute before Smith slotted one from close range in the 68th minute to bring the scores to 16-all.
However, the match ultimately fell to the boots of Cronk and Wallace. Cronk kicked an ugly looking field goal in the 75th minute before Wallace replied with just under two minutes left on the clock. But with time running out Cronk calmly slotted his second field goal of the night to give his team the two points.
Wallace did have the chance to kick a penalty goal right on full time that would have won Penrith the game but it was waved wide and the Storm recorded their second one point win in as many weeks in 2014.