League: Storm crush Panthers

Cooper Cronk celebrates one of two tries he scored against the Panthers. Source / Getty Images
Cooper Cronk celebrates one of two tries he scored against the Panthers. Source / Getty Images

Craig Bellamy's axe-wielding tactics delivered the win he desperately wanted as Melbourne crushed Penrith 46-6 in their NRL clash at AAMI Park.

Bellamy sent a message to his players by dropping Queensland Origin representative Dane Nielsen following their five-match losing streak.

They ran in six tries in the opening half on Saturday to set up the win against the hapless Panthers, who didn't manage to cross until the 71st minute.

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith said the message was heard loud and clear.

"Everyone was put on notice that your spot in the team's not guaranteed when a player of Dane's calibre is left out," said Smith after the match.

"I think everyone's eyes were opened right up when Craig made that decision."

Storm winger Sisa Waqa showed their urgency when he scored after just 35 seconds to set the scene for the bloodbath and he added another in the second half, while Cooper Cronk and Justin O'Neill also managed doubles.

Melbourne fell off dramatically in the second half and looked more like the side that had struggled in recent weeks, but their work was already done after setting up a 34-0 lead by the half-time break.

While delighted with their try-scoring efforts, Bellamy lauded their miserly defence.

"We had a bit of urgency and line-speed and that was the most pleasing thing for me," he said.

"It was a wonderful first half; the second half we didn't complete so well but I was happy that we defended a whole heap better and I think it's something we can build on there."

The Panthers, down in 15th position, were looking to claim three successive wins for the first time since 2010 but they ran into a Storm outfit determined to stop their slide down the NRL ladder.

The win pushes them back up to second, at least until the result of the Souths-Gold Coast match on Sunday afternoon.

To the visitors' credit, they managed to stem the flow of tries in the second half with their defence, practically non-existent in the first half - more committed in the second 40 minutes with the Storm only crossing twice.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said it was a game he'd rather forget.

"We were pretty bad, our defence in the first half was way off the pace," Cleary said.

"In the second half I thought we created quite a lot of chances but for some poor finishing we would have scored a few more points.

"We were well beaten by a good team who obviously had a lot to prove and were very keyed up for a good performance."

Young Panthers five-eighth Lachlan Coote suffered a cut below his eye but after an spell in the blood bin returned to finish the match.


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