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Storm hold out Panthers

By Adrian Warren 27/03/2010 11:28:23 PM Comments (0)

Superstar fullback Billy Slater ended an eventful week on a high note as he combined with the return of Cooper Cronk to help sink Penrith 16-10 in Saturday's NRL clash at CUA Stadium.

Unbeaten Melbourne scored the first 10 points of the second half and held off a late Penrith rally to record their third "ugly" win from as many away games.

Penrith suffered their second loss in three games and were left to rue some botched opportunities.

Halfback Cronk, who was playing his first game of the year after off-season knee surgery, orchestrated the victory by setting up all three Storm tries.

Slater, who made the headlines early in the week after sledging Newcastle forward Cory Paterson over his depression, and then only flew into Sydney Saturday morning because of sinus problems, was another strong contributor.

The mercurial fullback caught a deft Cronk chip kick to score Melbourne's second try in the 43rd minute and set up a 12-4 lead.

That advantage swelled to 12 points when winger Luke MacDougall notched his third try in as many games, as he performed an Indian rubberman act in twisting and contorting out of a Shane Elford tackle to ground the ball in the corner whilst airborne.

A 72nd minute try to fullback Lachlan Coote and the conversion from Michael Gordon got Penrith within six points with seven minutes to go, but more missed opportunities proved costly for the Panthers.

Slater, who missed the Storm's final training session and described himself as "a little bit crook" on Thursday and Friday was pleased with his form.

"I was feeling better by last night, it was a blessing that I stayed in Melbourne for that extra day," Slater told AAP.

"I felt quite good today, it was probably the best I felt in the first three games."

Asked whether it was good to get the distractions from earlier in the week out of the way, Slater's reply was: "It's good to play footy."

Melbourne took an early lead through a try to Brett Finch, but Penrith closed the gap to 6-4 by halftime following a 36th minute try to Sam McKendry.

After completing just over half of their sets in the first half, Melbourne were far more clinical after the break.

"They did make it hard for themselves, but to their credit they defended very well at the end of the first half and Penrith only got the one try," Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy told reporters.

"I thought we hung on pretty well after they got within six points again.

"It's really the same story as the last two weeks to be quite honest, we are winning ugly, but we are winning."

Bellamy described Cronk's effort as outstanding.

Penrith coach Matthew Elliott, who has lost all 13 of his matches as coach against Bellamy, said the Panthers' performance was a long way off their expectations.

"We went a long way toward giving them the game," Penrith captain Petero Civoniceva told reporters.

"It was just poor execution and up against Melbourne, of course we were going to run ourselves into trouble and it was just that extra energy that we were using up with poor ball control that is really costing us."

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