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Munster switch ignites Storm as Smith’s solo try stuns, Panthers rue missed chances: 3 Big Hits

Cameron Munster, Viliame Kikau and Brandon Smith.Source: FOX SPORTS

The Storm have beaten the Panthers 16-0 on the back of a masterclass from Cameron Munster and a brilliant solo try from Brandon Smith.

The Storm burst out of the blocks with tries to Nick Meaney, Brandon Smith and David Nofoaluma and while the Panthers threw everything at them over 80 minutes they couldn’t crack the line.

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Both sides paid tribute to Paul Green in a touching pre-match huddle and moment’s silence.

Cameron Munster and Justin Olam set up a brilliant long-range try for Nick Meaney to regather his kick and finish off to give the Storm a 6-0 lead.

Brandon Smith produced a brilliant break to score the Storm’s second as the visitors opened up a commanding early lead.

The Panthers were denied first half tries to Izack Tago and Viliame Kikau who knocked-on over the line.

Nofoaluma scored his first try in Storm colours to give Melbourne a commanding 16-0 lead they never relinquished.

The Panthers had a mountain of possession in the second half, but couldn’t cross the line as the Storm flexed their premiership muscle with a stunning defensive display.

The Panthers will be sweating on an ankle injury to Liam Martin as their charge to the minor premiership hit another hurdle.

Here are the key takeaways from the match.

MUNSTER A REVELATION AT FULLBACK AS OLAM SHINES

Cameron Smith said during the week he was surprised Cameron Munster didn’t stay at fullback, but Craig Bellamy named him in the No.6 only to play him in the No.1 role against the Panthers and he starred yet again.

It is no coincidence the Storm’s season revival came when Munster was switched to the position where he made his name early in his career.

Munster provides so much uncertainty at fullback, which has become the most important position on the rugby league field.

His ability to keep the defence guessing across the park creates opportunities for his teammates and they took full advantage against the Panthers.

Justin Olam set up the first try of the game for Nick Meaney with a brilliant kick, but it was Munster who started the initial break.

“The Storm’s first try with Justin Olam, who was great down that left side and put a kick in and Nick Meaney was backing up on the inside,” Greg Alexander said.

“Their first try down the left hand side with the kick from Olam was a spectacular try,” Michael Ennis added.

However Steve Roach believes Munster was the key to the try that broke the game open.

“That was all Munster,” Roach said.

“He started the break on the inside. Just brilliant. Munster is doing it on both sides of the ball. The Storm down with a lot of injuries and he is the man that is putting his hand up.”

Ennis marvelled at Munster for playing like James Tedesco in his last two performances.

“What about Munster the form he is in heading into the finals series,” Ennis said.

“Munster what a season he has put together.”

SMITH REPAYS STORM WITH STUNNING TRY

Brandon Smith repaid his teammates after spending four weeks on the sidelines through suspension by producing one of the individual tries of the season.

Smith started at lock in a late change from Craig Bellamy and it paid dividends with his brilliant solo try in the 20th minute.

Greg Alexander was in awe of Smith’s effort, which saw him use his all of his unique combination of skills.

“It was a dominant first half for the Storm with three tries and Brandon Smith’s effort was just spectacular,” Alexander said.

“Out near halfway and a bit of footwork and speed from Brandon Smith, who started the game.

“Normally he is off the bench but they started him and that certainly paid dividends.

“The power, the strength and the footwork from Brandon Smith and they were sitting pretty at halftime 16-0 up.

“Smith scored his solo effort from just out near halfway.

“That’s where he took the ball. But the power of Brandon Smith was incredible to get through that Liam Martin tackle and then put the big footwork on Charlie Staines.”

SLOPPY PANTHERS FAIL TO TAKE CHANCES

The Panthers failed to clinch the minor premiership after putting in one of their worst performances of the season highlighted by some glaring missed opportunities.

Losing Dylan Edwards to a shoulder injury didn’t help their cause and they looked clunky in terms of their decision making and finishing ability, before Charlie Staines was hooked in the second half.

Greg Alexander noted the missed tries that normally the Panthers ice every day of the week.

“The Panthers needed to take their chances,” Alexander said.

“Izack Tago was pulled up centimetres short and Viliame Kikau knocked on over the line.

“The Storm don’t give you many chances and you need to grab them.

“Penrith went close a couple of times to score tries, but against this Melbourne Storm defence, who were pretty desperate on their own line, they just needed to grab those chances.”

Steve Roach was also critical of the Panthers’ lack of intent in defence.

“They had a couple of chances in that first half,” Roach said.

“Kikau lost the ball on the way down.

“They should have scored off the Koroisau 40 metre break up the middle. They got held up over the line.

“But they also didn’t have the right attitude in defence.

“They missed 22 tackles in the first half. That is unheard of.”

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MATCH PREVIEW

The Penrith Panthers host the Melbourne Storm in a blockbuster grudge match at Bluebet Stadium.

Dylan Edwards has been ruled out with Charlie Staines coming in at fullback.

For the Panthers Viliame Kikau returns from a hip injury in the second row, with Chris Smith dropping out.

However, Taylan May has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, with Sunia Turuva earning his starting debut on the wing, while Robert Jennings joins the bench.

Matt Eisenhuth will start at prop with James Fisher-Harris suspended.

Brandon Smith and Tui Kamikamica start in the back row with Tom Eisenhuth and Josh King switching to the bench.

For the Storm Nick Meaney returns from concussion at fullback with Cameron Munster switching back to five-eighth.

Cooper Johns switches to halfback with Jahrome Hughes sidelined with a shoulder injury.

It has been a heated build-up to the clash with both clubs trading barbs over claims the Panthers are arrogant and the Storm invented the wrestle.

It sets the scene for a blockbuster clash with the Panthers a chance to all but wrap up the minor premiership with a win, while the Storm can edge closer to cementing a top four spot.

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