The Penrith Panthers upset the Melbourne Storm in the preliminary final, leaving the losing coach to make some tough admissions.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says his side “got what (it) deserved” in the preliminary final loss to the Penrith Panthers.
Coming off an extra week’s break and virtually at full strength, Melbourne was supposed to cruise past the Panthers, who have been criticised for lacking cohesion with the ball in recent weeks.
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Both sides left the script at home, though — Penrith rediscovered its mojo and Melbourne turned in an uncharacteristically sloppy performance.
In a sign of things to come, the Storm lost Brandon Smith and Christian Welch early, and without two of their most damaging middle forwards, were unable to penetrate the Panthers’ defensive wall.
A late try to Ryan Papenhuyzen put the Storm back in the contest, but with a 69 per cent completion rate and 16 errors to their name, the Melburnians simply played themselves out of the game.
Bellamy said he was “disappointed” with the performance as much as the loss.
“We got what we deserved tonight,” he said.
“We dropped a couple of really good opportunities, dropping balls. The Panthers really scrambled there a couple of times to save a couple of tries.
“We didn’t have a whole heap going for us but at the end of the day we got what we deserved and the Panthers got what they deserved.”
Bellamy took specific aim at the Storms’ attack. The Storm averaged 34 points per game in this year’s regular season but went scoreless through the first three quarters of Saturday’s grand final qualifier.
“It’s real hard to take. In attack, it was one of our poorest performances of the year, probably the poorest. It was disappointing,” he said.
“We trained well during the week. I didn’t see it coming at all.”
Bellamy said he was nonetheless proud of his side, given it had managed to maintain its heavyweight status despite losing captain Cameron Smith this year and spending the majority of the past two seasons away from Melbourne.
“I can’t be too critical of tonight, obviously it was disappointing, but what these guys have done for two years … we won a premiership last year and we won a minor premiership last year,” he said.
“Again, it’s major disappointment on how we performed tonight but I can’t be too critical for what they’ve been through in the last couple of years and the footy that they’ve played.”
The game was both the last of the Storm’s season and the last game in a Melbourne jersey for Dale Finucane, Nicho Hynes and Josh Addo-Carr.
Co-captain Finucane and Hynes, who has enjoyed a breakout season in 2021, are both bound for Cronulla, while Addo-Carr has inked a deal with the Bulldogs as part of that club’s spending spree.