2018 NRL – Melbourne Storm vs Penrith Panthers Preview

AT A GLANCE

When?
Friday 31st August, 10:55 (UK)

Where?
AAMI Park

What channel is it on?
UK – Sky Sports Arena
Australia – Foxtel, Nine Network, LIVE PASS

Where can I stream the match?
UK – Sky Sports subscribers can stream the match online via Sky Go
Australia – https://www.telstra.com.au/tv-movies-music/sports-offer

Are tickets still available?
http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/Show.aspx?sh=STORM2518

THE STATISTICS

THE LOWDOWN

STORM

Head Coach: Craig Bellamy

Starting 13: Slater, Olam, Blair, Scott, Addo-Carr, Munster, Croft, J. Bromwich, C. Smith, Glasby, F. Kaufusi, Stimson, Finucane – Interchanges: K. Bromwich, Kamikamica, Welch, Kasiano – Reserves: Hoffman, Hughes, Vete, Jacks

Unavailable: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon Smith, Will Chambers, Suliasi Vunivalu

  • An under-strength Melbourne side did just enough to secure an important win over Gold Coast last week to remain at the top of the NRL ladder. In a low-scoring game of two halves, the Storm overturned an 8-0 half-time deficit to claim an 8-10 victory.

  • The Storm head into the final weekend in prime position to claim the minor Premiership. If they avoid defeat to the Panthers then they will end the regular season on top of the ladder whilst they could even retain their place with defeat with Sydney Roosters needing to overturn a points differential of 32 points.

  • Tim Glasby starts at prop with Christian Welch reverting to the bench in the only change from last week for the Storm. Ryan Hoffman could make an incredible return from injury with the second rower named amongst the reserves.

PANTHERS

Head Coach: Cameron Ciraldo

Starting 13: Watene-Zelezniak, Mansour, Blake, Peachey, Crichton, Maloney, Cleary, Merrin, Egan, Campbell-Gillard, Kikau, Yeo, Fisher-Harris – Interchanges: May, Leota, Harawira-Naera, Tamou – Reserves: Katoa, Hetherington, Ellis, Phillips

Unavailable: Sam McKendry, Dylan Edwards, Jarome Luai, Dean Whare

  • Penrith were second best throughout as they were comfortably beaten away at New Zealand Warriors. The Panthers struggled with ball-in-hand and didn’t look a threat until they started offloading late into the game but it was too late as they went down 36-16.

  • The Panthers are boosted by the return of skipper James Maloney with the five-eighth returning from a knee injury sooner than expected. He replaces the versatile Tyrone Peachey who will slot in at centre with Dean Whare suffering a season-ending broken arm last week.

  • It’s now back-to-back defeats for the Panthers and a third defeat in a row will be difficult for Penrith to overcome, especially as it could cost them a home tie in the play-offs. The Panthers could also still make the top 4 but will need a win here to give themselves any chance.

THE PREDICTION

The minor Premiership could be returning to Melbourne again this year with the Storm heading into Round 23 with their fate in their own hands. They lead the second-placed Sydney Roosters by two points and know they will retain their title if they avoid defeat. Even a loss could see the Storm end the regular season on top of the ladder and Penrith will be hoping they can inflict that defeat to boost their own play-off hopes. After two disappointing displays, the Panthers will need a boost to be provided by returning captain James Maloney if they are to get anything here and give themselves a chance of a top 4 spot. However, the Storm have a 7-3 record at AAMI Park this season and should improve that to 8-3 with a win to seal the minor Premiership.