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The last spot in the grand final is up for grabs this afternoon when the Melbourne Storm take on the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 4pm (AEST).
It wasn’t that long ago that these two teams seemed set for a grand final rematch; Souths qualifying final win over Penrith two weeks ago put paid to that. Now, only one of the two best teams of 2021 will make it to the last game of the year.
Melbourne were very impressive in their 40-12 win over the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago. The minor premiers scored three tries early, and Manly were never in the game from there.
The Storm have a hard-working pack, led by Christian Welch and the Bromwich brothers; while Brandon Smith and Harry Grant provide all the class required around the ruck.
If the pack can get dominant, Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster can and will create plenty of chances. The return to form of Ryan Papenhuyzen creates another attacking threat for the Panthers to try and manage.
The week off did Brandon Smith a lot of good and he has been cleared to play after suffering a head knock against the Sea Eagles. Winger Josh Addo-Carr is likely to return from injury, leaving the Storm at full strength.
The Panthers’ road to the prelim could not have been more different. A 6-point loss to the Rabbitohs was followed by a thrilling 8-6 win over the Eels. There is no doubt that Penrith are battle-hardened; the question is whether they are suffering from fatigue as well.
Penrith’s defence against the Eels was rock solid, with Parramatta’s only try coming from a kick. However, they will need more from their attack against the Storm. Penrith’s left edge is normally the focal point, but Jarome Luai has failed to fire in the finals series so far. He gets a big chance this weekend to put that behind him.
Brian To’o has been named in the no.21 jumper but is likely to be a late inclusion. Viliame Kikau should be good to play, whilst Tyrone May comes in for the injured Mitch Kenny.
Penrith won’t be short of motivation, with revenge surely on their mind after last year’s grand final loss.
The battle of the forward packs will be ferocious early but I do expect the Storm to gain a bit of ascendency.
From there, I think the Storm have too many points in them.
Melbourne Storm by 12
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. George Jennings 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich (c) 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane (c)
Bench/Reserves: 14. Harry Grant 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Nicho Hynes | 18. Aaron Pene 19. Tom Eisenhuth 20. Chris Lewis 21. Isaac Lumelume
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brent Naden 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary (c) 8. Moses Leota 9. Api Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo (c)
Bench/Reserves: 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Tevita Pangai Jr 17. Liam Martin | 18. Izack Tago 19. Spencer Leniu 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Brian To’o