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Panthers flex their muscle in comfortable win over Storm

Star halves Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary cruised the Panthers to a comfortable 26-6 victory over the Storm at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

The defending champs are closing in on another minor premiership after shutting out the Melbourne heavyweights, holding their place on top of the competition ladder over the Broncos for another week after making it eight straight at home.

Losing Jahrome Hughes (ankle) and Xavier Coates (hip) throughout the week didn't help Melbourne's cause but errors (11) and missed tackles (41) cruelled any chances of causing an upset in Sydney's west. 

Melbourne surprised the home side early when they had the first four-pointer with centre Young Tonumaipea taking the ball from one end to the other with the boot before scooting over in the next play to score his second try of the season. 

Tonumaipea continued an impressive first half, when he came up with a try saver on Brian To'o in the 20th minute but the NSW winger couldn't be stopped again four minutes later, with a slick right-side raid creating an overlap in the corner.

Cleary missed the conversion but with both sides kicking an early penalty goal the scores were locked 6-6.

Errors began to creep into Melbourne's game and the Panthers began to steal momentum with Cleary mesmerising Storm defenders to send a weaving Luai over the line to score.

A penalty against Storm forward Josh King for a crusher tackle on Matt Eisenhuth gave Cleary a shot from right in front and he converted for an eight-point lead. 

The Panthers' well-oiled machine was full of running at the back end of the first half with Cleary looping a nice pass over the top for Stephen Crichton who scored on the left to extend the home side's lead further.

The Storm got into an arm-wrestle in the opening stages of the second term but the Panthers all but put the game to bed when Zac Hosking handed To'o a double with a nice catch and pass to the right. 

Melbourne stars Cameron Munster and Harry Grant tried to threaten the line through the game but in the end ran out of answers as the Panthers took another step towards a three-peat to defend their way to victory. 

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