02/03/2024

Panthers in action during 2020. Photo: penrithpanthers.com.au

The last time the Panthers and the Storm met was a thriller in last year's decider. Can they repeat the dose?

Round three in the NRL kicks off with another blockbuster as Melbourne Storm travel to Penrith to take on the Panthers in the hotly anticipated NRL Grand Final rematch.

The Panthers have been impressive to start the season, keeping the Cowboys and the Bulldogs scoreless whilst piling on 52 points themselves.

Penrith is in a purple patch of form with 19 wins in the club’s past 20 matches. The only loss? To Storm when it counted. A stat that haunts the Panthers’ players.

The Storm however, lost a tight one to the Eels in wet and miserable conditions and only just held on against a fast finishing Rabbitohs in round one.

Panthers second rower Viliame Kikau (16 carries for 150 metres) comes into the clash ready to atone for last year’s grand final loss, after scoring a double last week against the Bulldogs.

Former Melbourne Storm centre Paul Momirovski (11 carries for 110 metres, two tries) also comes into his first clash with his former side in terrific form.

Winger Brian To’o (24 carries for 254 metres) and forwards Isaah Yeo (15 carries for 134 metres, 37 tackles) and James Fisher-Harris (19 carries for 193 metres, 27 tackles) were also instrumental in the win over the Bulldogs.

For the Storm, Clive Churchill Medallist Ryan Papenhuyzen (25 carries for 249 metres) and Cameron Munster (14 carries for 132 metres) continued their great start to the year against the Eels.

Justin Olam scored his first try for the club and star winger Josh Addo-Carr (12 carries for 129 metres) continued to build into his season.

Big men Christian Welch (12 carries for 121 metres, 41 tackles) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (16 carries for 144 metres, 21 tackles) thrived in the wet conditions, and will need to continue that form into what should be a physical encounter.

Star Panthers half back Nathan Cleary will miss the important clash after failing to recover from a concussion suffered in last weeks win, Matt Burton will take his spot in the halves.

Papenhuyzen has been ruled out for the Storm with a neck injury he sustained in the loss to the Eels, Nicho Hynes is expected to start at fullback.

Second rower Felise Kafusi will also miss, serving the first of his two game suspension for a high hit on Ryan Matterson.

Tom Eisenhuth move into the number 11 jersey and Aaron Pene has been included to replace him on the bench.

This grudge match is poised to mean more than two premiership points for the victor.

Despite their impressive form the only time the Panthers have lost in their last 20 games was to the Storm in last year’s decider, can the Storm maintain the psychological edge or will the Panthers bite back?

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