The Penrith Panthers are likely to lose second spot in the NRL after they went down to their third successive defeat yesterday, losing 18-10 to Melbourne Storm in an ugly clash at AAMI Park. Matt Elliott, the Penrith coach, stormed out of the dugout before the game was over in disgust at his side's performance. Cameron Smith, the Storm captain, put his side 12-10 ahead with a conversion from the sideline with just over 12 minutes left and then Matt Duffie sealed the result with a try a minute from the end.
The Panthers are level, on 26 points, with third-placed Wests Tigers, who take on Manley today. Fifth-placed New Zealand Warriors, away at South Sydney in the early hours of this morning, also had the chance to move on to 26 points, as do the South Sydney Roosters in fourth, who travel to Brisbane in tomorrow's match. Elliott was calm but disappointed at the post-match press conference, saying simply mistakes had killed them and bemoaned their poor decision-making.
"Our lack of respect for possession at crucial times against a high quality opposition cost us, for sure," he told reporters."We didn't give ourselves the opportunity to win tonight because of poor decisions." The victory was a much-needed bright note for the Storm, who had lost five of their past six games heading into this match as the fallout from their massive salary cap scandal continues. Craig Bellamy, the Melbourne coach, said: "Finally there was a little bit of reward for a lot of effort in the last month. I was really proud of them. I think they're doing a wonderful job for the club."
The club this week also announced three of their first grade players, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch and Jeff Lima, are heading to England to join Super League club Wigan while Brisbane are a hot favourites to gain the services of superstar centre Greg Inglis. Elsewhere, Canberra beat Cronulla 20-13 while North Queensland won 28-24 against Newcastle. In the Super League last night, Hull KR sent Bradford to their 10th consecutive defeat, the Bulls' worst run since they re-formed in 1964. Peter Fox scored a hat-trick for Rovers, who ran in nine tries in a 49-24 win. Bottom-of-the-table Catalans Dragons recorded only their fifth win of the season, to upset second-placed Warrington 29-28.