Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
18 hours ago
THE Melbourne Storm have extended their winning streak to ten after putting together a sensational second half performance to defeat the Panthers 26-6 in front of a 12,182 crowd at AAMI Park
The Panthers took control of the match early, capitalising on Melbourne's weak edge defence to dominate the meter battle.
An upset looked on the cards when Adrian Purtell stroll over in only seventh minute. Cooper Cronk added the extras to give his side a six-point lead.
The home side were finally gifted some good field position in the 13th minute following a forward pass by Luke Lewis.
However the Storm were shakey in their first visit to the Panther's half and Dane Nielson lost posession on only the second play.
Craig Bellamy's side were given another chance only moments later following a penalty against the Panthers.
This time the Melbourne attack was much more coordinated, some good meters up the middle by Cameron Smith followed by a clever pass by Cooper Cronk put Ryan Hinchcliffe over.
The Panthers dominated possession and field position for the remainder of the half but the Melbourne defence was too strong and scores remained level at half time.
Both sides were given an early opportunity to go on the attack in the second the 40 but only the home side managed to capitalise.
The Panthers went on the attack first after Melbourne were penalised on halfway.However a knock on from Sam Mckendry on the third took the pressure off the Storm.
McKendry was the villian for his own side again in the next set when he lost the ball on halfway and then conceded a penalty a minute later.
Smith took no chances and went for the two to give his side the lead for the first time in the match in the 47th minute.
It was all the Storm from there as they began to beat the Panthers all over the park.
Sika Manu scored the first try of the second half in the 51st minute after muscling his way over.
The Storm continued to dominate possesion and field position, but it was not until the 64th minute when Billy Slater came down with the ball after brilliant kick by Gareth Widdop.
Melbourne were over again less than ten minutes later after a clever grubber kick by Slater put Kevin Proctor over.
Both sides were given opportunities to score some points in the dying minutes but the score remained unchanged.
Melbourne Storm 26 defeated Penrith Panthers 6
National Rugby League - Round 22 (Close the Gap Round) - Saturday August 6, 2011 5:30pm
Venue: AAMI Park
Referee: Ben Cummins and Phil Haines
Video Referee: Russell Smith
Touch Judges: Steve Carrall and Adam Gee
Halftime: Melbourne Storm 6 Penrith Panthers 6
MELBOURNE STORM (26)
Tries: Billy Slater, Sika Manu, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hinchcliffe
Conversions: Cameron Smith (4/4)
Penalty Goals: Cameron Smith (1/1)
PENRITH PANTHERS (6)
Tries: Adrian Purtell
Conversions: Luke Walsh (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good Evening folks and welcome to Melbourne where the top of the table Storm take on the Penrith Panthers. We have crisp conditions at AAMI Park for what should be an exciting match.
The Panthers will need a win tonight in order to keep their finals hopes alive, while for the home side will be looking to extend their winning streak to ten.
The Panthers have just announced their late changes for tonight. Harry Seijka is out. Luke Lewis moves to five-eighth with Nathan Smith shifting from the bench and into the starting back row. Masada Iosefa joins the bench.
The Panthers have just taken out the Toyota cup with a 22-18 victory.
The Storm have announced their changes for the match; Sisa Waqa, Jesse Bromwich and Robbie Rochow are all out. Quinn, Manu and Widdop come into the starting 17.
1 min: Luke Walsh kicks off and the match is under way.
1 min: Melbourne make it to halfway on their first set before Cronk kicks it down field.
2 min: Brad Tighe makes a good break down the right side of the field, he chips for himself and Widdop is there to clean it up but is forced over the dead ball line. Line dropout.
3 min: Great cover defence by the Storm there especially Slater who tackles Purtell over the sideline.
5 min: Proctor is penalised after Billy Slater pulls off a try saver by taking Jennings down one on one and Proctor tackled him over the side line.
7 min: TRY
Adrian Purtell strolls over the try line after Penrith spread it out wide. Melbourne's right and left edge defence is getting exposed tonight. Conversion attempt by Luke Walsh is successful.
Penrith Panthers 6-0
12 min: The Panthers are dominating the Storm all over the field at the moment.
13 min: Luke Lewis is pinned for a forward pass 30 out from his own try line. Melbourne will go on the attack.
13 min: Dane Nielson loses the ball on the second play and the Panthers are off the hook.
14 min: Penalty against Waterhouse and Melbourne will get a piggyback up the field.
16 min: TRY
Melbourne make some good meters up the middle, Cronk commits two defenders before passing to Hinchcliffe who scoots over to score. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith is successful.
20 min: Melbourne make it to the Penrith 30 on the 5th before Cameron Smith makes a nice break and offloads to Slater who throws a wide pass to O'Neill but the pass was called forward.
22 min: Walsh is pinned for a forward pass to Simmons on his own 30. The Storm are lucky to be off the hook, Simmons was away.
23 min: Penrith hold with a good defensive set.
24 min: Melbourne are penalised and Penrith will get some good field position.
25 min: Justin O'Neill knocks the ball down while attempting to tackle Simmons. He probably saved a try there.
26 min: Penalty against Melbourne for being inside the ten.
27 min: Luke Walsh grubbers into the in goal and Widdop is there to clean it up, however Lewis is there to tackle Widdop and force the dropout.
29 min: Proctor tries to pounce on a loose Luke Walsh pass but knocks it forward, Penrith will get 6 again only ten out.
30 min: Luke Walsh tries to spread it out wide but the ball sails over the sideline. Melbourne are finally off the hook.
35 min: Penalty against Penrith for holding down a tackled player 20 out from the Melbourne line.
36 min: Proctor loses the ball trying to play it. Penrith are off the hook. We have some rain here at the moment.
38 min: The Panthers make great meters up the field after Luke Walsh breaks the line, they make it to the Melbourne 10 meter line on the last before Walsh loses the ball. He then throws it away and is penalised.
39 min: Poor kick from Cronk on the last and the Panthers are off the hook.
40 min: Walsh passes to Kevin Proctor only 30 out from the Penrith line and Melbourne were given one last go at the line. Cronk grubbers it into the in goal but there was too much on it and that's the half.
41 min: The rain is still pouring as the second half comes under way.
41 min: Melbourne are penalised on the last for holding down a tackled player. Penrith will go on the attack.
42 min: McKendry loses the ball and the Storm are off the hook.
45 min: McKendry loses the ball forward trying to offload on halfway. Iosefa takes it from an off side position so Melbourne will get a piggyback up the field and go on the attack.
45 min: Melbourne get six again after Luke Lewis tries to intercept the ball.
47 min: PENALTY GOAL
Sam McKendry starts throwing punches before the scrum is even packed and is penalised, the Storm opt to take the two and Cameron Smith has no trouble.
Melbourne Storm 8-6
49 min: Melbourne will get a line drop out after a beutiful bomb from Cooper Cronk and Ryan Walker is tackled into the in goal after diffusing it.
51 min: TRY
Sika Manu muscles his way over for the Storm after a quick play the ball. Cameron Smith adds the extras to put the home side more than a converted try ahead.
Melbourne Storm 14-6
54 min: Adrian Purtell loses the ball only 10 meters out from his own line in trying to diffuse a bomb and Melbourne will go right on the attack.
56 min: Garreth Widdoop kicks it on the last and Billy Slater knocks it back into the arms of O'Neill but he is thrown over the side line by the Penrith defence.
61 min: Nice break from Jennings down the right side but he runs out of room and is forced to pass it back inside to Walker who is tackled.
62 min: Waterhouse is penalised 40 meters out from the Melbourne line and the Storm will go on the attack again.
64 min: TRY
Gareth Widdop goes to the air on the last and Billy Slater is there to take it. He bounces out of three attempted tackles to dive over for the Storm. Smith adds the extras.
Melbourne Storm 20-6
67 min: Walsh puts up a bomb and Billy Slater drops it cold to give Penrith a chance to go on the attack.
68 min: Seven Storm players combine to stop Civinceva from scoring on the third.
69 min: Walsh grubbers into the in goal on the last and Slater is forced to take it dead. Line dropout.
70 min: Brad Tighe is penalised for pushing Anthony Quinn out of the way as Quinn was trying to mark at the play the ball.
73 min: TRY
Billy Slater grubbers it into the Panthers in goal on the last and Kevin Proctor is there to ground the ball for another Melbourne try. Smith's conversion attempt is successful.
Melbourne Storm 26-6
77 min: Panthers will go on the attack after a Melbourne mistake 10 out from halfway.
79 min: A poor set by the Panthers and Melbourne have the ball after an average kick by Luke Walsh on the last.
80 min: The siren sounds and that's the match.