Melbourne has won an grinding arm-wrestle against Penrith to extend coach Craig Bellamy’s NRL opening round winning streak.

Bellamy’s record now stands at 22 seasons without a first round loss, with his Storm troops overcoming the three-time defending champions 8-0 at AAMI Park on Friday night.

It was the first time since 2022 that Penrith had been kept scoreless, with Melbourne also responsible for that result.

After three losses to the Panthers last year, including a thumping 34-point defeat in the preliminary final, it was sweet revenge for the Storm.

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The game was effectively decided in the space of two minutes in the second half when Penrith was denied a try in the 48th minute with the bunker ruling obstruction.

In the subsequent set of six, Melbourne scored down the other end with Jonah Pezet, in for injured playmaker Cameron Munster, putting up a pin-point bomb.

It was batted back by Xavier Coates to Reimis Smith who dived across the tryline.

With both teams turning in massive defensive efforts, it ended up being the only try of the night, as unheralded forwards Joe Chan and Josh King and makeshift centre Nick Meaney stood up for Melbourne.

Storm prop Tui Kamikamika blew a chance to ice the match when he spilt the ball while transferring it between his hands as he tried to ground it.

The score was just 2-0 at halftime, with both teams racking up six errors each while the Storm’s completion rate was a woeful 59 per cent, and Penrith’s not much better at 73.

The Panthers had back-to-back sets but the Storm’s goal-line defence proved impenetrable, with star halfback Nathan Cleary unable to pick a hole for his troops.

In a positive note for the Panthers, Taylan May showed he’d lost none of his pace in his return to the NRL after suffering an ACL injury during the pre-season last year.

His break set up the disallowed try for Soni Luke, which was the closest the Panthers came to scoring.

“We were clunky, didn’t have the right timing.”

Sharks do it the hard way in gritty comeback win over Warriors

Cronulla has fought back to ambush the Warriors and spoil Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s homecoming with a gutsy 16-12 win in Auckland.

To make matters worse for a clumsy Warriors outfit, hooker Wayde Egan left the field with an apparent elbow injury in his first game since enjoying a career-best 2023 season.

The Sharks’ away win over last year’s preliminary finalists comes as they look to once-and-for-all shake their reputation as a good side unable to match it with great sides.

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“There’s a long way to go in the season and we can be better but the display of heart and effort was awesome,” Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.

“That was one of our most special wins, I think.”

Early on Friday night, the Warriors showed flashes of what made them the NRL’s surprise success story in 2023, with Shaun Johnson’s kicking game at its pinpoint best.

Led by Shark-in-waiting Addin Fonua-Blake, the Warriors stormed to a 12-0 lead after 13 minutes and it looked as though Cronulla would once again fold in the face of a highly-rated foe.

A team of rugby league player celebrate scoring a try

Cronulla toiled its way to victory in a stunning display of toughness. (Getty Images: Hannah Peters)

Cronulla’s middle forward unit, weaker on paper than those of other premiership heavyweights, was seriously brittle as Fonua-Blake crashed over and Luke Metcalf cut through four defenders early.

It took 30 minutes for the Sharks to enter the Warriors’ 20-metre zone.

But Cronulla was patient and began to pounce when errors crept into the Warriors’ game later in the first half.

“Our defence, our ruck control, just weren’t good enough,” said Warriors coach Andrew Webster.

“We were clunky, didn’t have the right timing.”

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Re-live all the big moments in our blog. 

Signing off

That’ll do me for tonight team – after two tough games like that I need a lie down.

But I’ll be back here tomorrow and we can do it all again, rugby league is back with a vengeance, take care and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve crashed with your tips – everyone is in the same boat.

Until next time.

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FULLTIME: STORM 8 PANTHERS 0

Well I’ll be damned. That’s a real statement from Melbourne, without Munster and Asofa-Solomona. Their best win in years.

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78th minute: Panthers error

Penrith are on the attack…..again……they don’t look that likely…….again……..they force a drop out……..again and they go short……again.

To’o knocks it on in the contest and the Storm are going to win. What a remarkable defensive effort! They’re the first team to keep the Panthers scoreless in two years (in fact, they were the last team to do it) and they have kept their incredible Round 1 streak alive.

73rd minute: Panthers error

Turuva busts the Storm open from close to halfway and he has Cleary in support but they track him down…through King? That’s right, the front-rower Josh King, what a super effort! The Storm look shot to bits, players are down injured everywhere but a big shot from Smith forces an error from Martin. This is an almighty effort.

67th minute: Panthers can’t crack them

A R.Smith error puts Penrith on the attack, May goes within inches of scoring before Luke forces a dropout. Melbourne go short and get it back after a great take from R.Smith but not without controversy – Papenhuyzen launched the kick right as the shot clock went off.

But a Martin strip puts Penrith back onto it, and Welch knocks on a Cleary kick to give them another set. Surely can’t Melbourne hold them out AGAIN?? But they do…only for Luke to force another drop out. Can they hold out AGAIN AGAIN?

YES THEY CAN! Luai launches a prayer of a kick and Warbrick takes it nicely. Melbourne are looking stronger defensively with every set and Penrith are starting to look short of ideas.

59th minute: Storm no try

Coates ducks out of dummy half close to the line and drops an offload out the back to Pezet, Kamikamica flies onto it and looks to have scored but he drops it at the last moment. Feels like that could have been game! But Penrith survive.

50th minute: STORM TRY

That’s a 12-point swing! From the penalty Melbourne test Penrith on both edges before Pezet puts a beautiful crosskick over to Coates, who taps it back to Smith to score. Been a looooong time coming but we have a try, great effort from Coates to get up there first. Meaney bangs it over from touch and it’s Storm 8-0.

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49th minute: Panthers no try

That would have been worth the wait if it was given – Luke, who’s just come on at dummy half, darts out and offloads to create a little ruck speed, Luai latches onto an offload and finds May who races down the sideline, kicks infield and Luke picks up the scraps to score.

It was awesome! It was also correctly disallowed as Luai ran behind Smith in the lead up. The wait continues.

45th minute: Panthers error

Sommerton very nearly puts Cleary over with only a desperate Ryan Papenhuyzen knocking down the pass. On the third tackle of the next set Eisenhuth goes for a hopeful offload and Grant does a great job to bat it backwards towards his own line and the Storm come away with it.

Second half underway

Penrith will get an early chance after Loiero gives away a ruck penalty in the first set.

HALFTIME: Storm 2 Panthers 0

Warbrick hits Turuva high to give Penrith a shot at a two-point field goal but it goes wide. Old school scoreline for an old school game thus far.

39th minute: Storm no try

A nice backline shift seemed to have Meaney sliding into score for all money but an almighty defensive effort from Edwards and May just slide him into touch. Attack has taken a back seat so far tonight but there’s been some mighty defensive plays.

31st minute: Panthers no try

After a Papenhuyzen makes an error the Panthers kick directly off the scrum and they very nearly snag it after Melbourne knock it back into the in-goal. They field the short drop out and get back to work….until a simple Yeo error relieves the pressure. Storm survive again!

25th minute: Panthers error

Penrith are getting a little frustrated with their inability to get anything going in attack and it shows when Cleary drops it cold on their own 40. Storm on the attack – there’s still no points, but they’re looking the better right now.

15th minute: Panthers error

A couple of basic errors from Melbourne have given Penrith some good field position and they’ve tested the Storm on either edge but the Victorians have showed some great scramble. Then Coates makes another strong carry to earn a penalty and despite the Panthers having all the good ball, that last little period is a win for the Storm,

8th minute: STORM PENALTY GOAL

Turuva, who is normally safe as a bank fielding kicks, drops a sitter absolutely cold. Storm get a full set inside Penrith’s 20. Penrith are offside from the scrum and the Storm take the penalty goal for a 2-0 lead.

5th minute: Storm penalty

Penrith go on the attack via a downtown penalty and look sharp but the Storm hold fast and Coates earns a penalty of Melbourne’s own to get them down the Panthers end.

KICKOFF IN MELBOURNE

Penrith kick off, running right to left.

Final teams and tips for Storm-Panthers

One change for both sides in Melbourne – as reported yesterday, Cameron Munster is out for Melbourne and Jonah Pezet will come in at five-eighth.

Penrith will bring Soni Luke in on the bench with Tyrone Peachey dropping out.

I’m 1/4 on my tips for Round 1, so take this with a grain of salt, but I like the Panthers here. Melbourne’s Round 1 record is imposing, but I think Penrith will have too much thunder for them in the middle of the field. Expecting a tight one though – let’s go with Taylan May to score first.

FULLTIME: SHARKS 16, WARRIORS 12

A terrific win to open the season for the Sharks, they showed so much heart and commitment amid heavy pressure from the Warriors. Feels like the sort of game they wouldn’t have won last year.

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dan