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Nathan Cleary in brutal career first as Storm maintain spectacular NRL record

The Penrith Panthers were left stunned in the opening round of the NRL.

The Melbourne Storm have stretched their record of winning in the first round of the NRL to 22 years under Craig Bellamy after holding Nathan Cleary and the Penrith Panthers scoreless in a 8-0 win. Cleary and the Panthers are looking to record a historic fourth straight premiership title to their tally, but the reigning champions have a lot of work to do having been outworked in a gritty opening round match against a Storm team missing Cameron Munster.

And in an amazing stat, the Panthers haven't been held scoreless since their loss to to the Storm in 2022 in round 22. The Panthers were also held scoreless in 2015 in round 13 in a 20-0 loss to the Storm.

Dylan Edwards and Nathan Cleary react and Cleary runs the ball.
Nathan Cleary (pictured right) and the Penrith Panthers were held scoreless in a 8-0 loss to the Storm, which saw Cleary play in a scoreless club game in his career. (Getty Images)

Incredibly, it also marks the first time in Cleary's flourishing career he has played for the Panthers and the team hasn't managed to score. Cleary debuted in 2016, but didn't play in the Panthers' scoreless match in 2022 when coach Cleary opted to rest a number of players including his son.

Cleary was bereft of ideas on Friday night as the Panthers failed to gel for the second time this year after their loss to Wigan in the World Club Challenge. The Panthers lost that match 16-12, but were kept scoreless in the second half.

Coach Ivan Cleary will now be looking for answers to the clunky Panthers attack with the team going 120 minutes of rugby league action without scoring a point. The Panthers appeared to struggle without the presence of centre Stephen Crichton outside halves Cleary and Jarome Luai after his move to the Bulldogs.

And fans were critical of the reigning champions after the Storm managed to hold onto a gritty victory without Maroons five-eighth Munster. Fans also praised the Storm for showing up to help coach Craig Bellamy hold onto his opening round winning record.

Ivan Cleary weighs up poor Penrith Panthers display

Coach Cleary was left puzzled at how the Panthers have started the season after finishing on such a high in 2023. "We just can't quite put it together, but that's part of building your season and trying to get some consistency throughout the 80 minutes," he said. "We looked alright, actually the first half, with the ball, but then we just kept dropping it and just couldn't maintain any sort of pressure."

Nathan Cleary reacts.
Nathan Cleary and the Panthers have failed to fire in two competitive matches in 2024. (Quinn Rooney via Getty Images)

Storm coach Craig Bellamy remained grounded after the victory, which means the Storm have now won their opening round clash of an NRL season for 22 years while in charge. "I don't think we played that well but we were really gutsy," Bellamy said.

"We had a lot of a lot of tackles to be made in our 20 metre area and we were out on our feet there a few times, but we just kept finding a way to to keep turning up so that was the really pleasing part." The Panthers will take on the Parramatta Eels in round two, while the Storm will play the Warriors who lost to the Sharks earlier on Friday.

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