Storm circle all-time Roosters record after destroying depleted Panthers

Seems only plague, locusts, or an injury toll measured on the Richter scale, can derail Melbourne's march to one of the most dominant seasons in rugby league history.

Pandemics, lockdowns and 15 NRL rivals certainly can't.

With a 16th straight triumph over a badly depleted Penrith outfit – their nearest competition in 2021 to date – Melbourne bested their own club record, and have drawn within striking distance of the Roosters' all-time 19 consecutive wins in 1975.

Craig Bellamy remembers that run well, as a St George fan whose sister was married the same grand final day the Dragons were drubbed 38-0.

A 37-10 disposal of the Panthers for his own side came in similarly dominant fashion, with games against Manly, Canberra and the Gold Coast on the horizon.

Melbourne now have yet another rails run at the minor premiership, with five games to play and an eye-watering +465 points differential.

Already, it is the largest sum seen in rugby league's history, surpassing the final season tallies of Parramatta in 2001 (+433), Manly in 1995 (+439) and Easts in 1935 (+442).

The Storm's average 24.47-point margin this season is still a ways off the carnage Dave Brown and his side wrought more than 80 years ago, to the tune of a 27.63-point margin each game.

Melbourne would need to win their last five matches by around 40 points each to top them, but who's to definitively say they can't?

Not Bellamy.

Asked if his side had yet another level to go to, Bellamy replied: "I'd like to think so, especially with our attack.

"I thought even though we scored some points today I didn't think that was a strong point of our game today.

"We didn't complete that well, it just didn't look as sharp as usual.

"But I thought our defence was great and with all due respect that's the important part of your game in the big games."

The Panthers were without Nathan Cleary, Brian To'o, Tyrone May, Isaah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris and Api Koroisau.

On the rugby league Richter scale, that's right up there.

"We know Penrith's still a strong club," Bellamy said.

"Their record over the last couple of years - how many games they've won - they've obviously got a really strong squad.

"It's not as though it was easy out there tonight, they're always going to have a strong side."

Melbourne only missed Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Tui Kamikamica from their first-choice 17 in comparison, though the earth has been known to shake on their approach as well.

A late calf issue for Jahrome Hughes is Melbourne's only concern with Bellamy indicating he could well be a scratching for next Saturday's Sea Eagles clash.

Harry Grant came off the bench for 50-odd impressive minutes that finished with a try and Bellamy letting him finish off the contest.

Nicho Hynes wandered off with an ankle injury that proved no major issue, giving Ryan Papenhuyzen another extended stint himself as he returns from an extended concussion lay-off.

Leading into the much-anticipated grand final rematch, the Storm's attack ranked as the best of all time, Penrith's defence the best of the NRL era.

As is the way in 2021, all-out attack won the day all-ends up.

One brilliant defensive effort from Matt Burton stopped an early Storm raid, and Jahrome Hughes in his tracks, when scores were still at an even keel.

A similarly desperate effort minutes later was matched by Reimis Smith, who wriggled and wrestled his way through Burton and on to the scorecard in the ninth minute.

A speculatively hoiked kick from one wing to the other by Josh Addo-Carr proved itself inspired and then some, sitting up exquisitely for Dean Ieremia and a 10-0 lead.

A slick right-side shift for the young winger's second ensuring Melbourne kept pace with the clock.

The Panthers never exactly wilted.

But their one-out hit-ups made them bugs on Justin Olam's windshield when they came right, then swept to the kerb when they swung wide to the left.

Down 18-0 at the break, Burton breathed life into the Panthers afterwards with enterprise when he put boot to ball or simply put his foot down.

A rare punt into touch on the full from Hughes saw the wheels wobble ever so slightly.

A hefty shot in defence from co-captain Dale Finucane was all it took to get things back on track, partner Jesse Bromwich backing into the in-goal like a Mack truck for an 24-0 lead.

A welcome-back-to-first-grade try for Grant followed, so too a third for Ieremia.

Late consolation tries to Brent Naden and Scott Sorensen were little more than trivial, Papenhuyzen's final second field goal different, but equally inconsequential.

Given the ways of the world over the past 18 months, locusts and plagues can't be ruled out.

Which at least gives hope to Melbourne's competitors.

 

Story first published on NRL.com by Dan Walsh, NRL.com Reporter

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Dan Walsh, NRL.com Reporter