NRL Grand Final: Melbourne Storm win thriller in front of 37,000 fans

Official attendance of the NRL Grand Final
The official attendance for the Grand Final is shown on the big screen inside the ANZ Stadium, which was originally built for the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Melbourne Storm won their fourth National Rugby League Grand Final with a 26-20 victory over the Penrith Panthers.

The match was played in front of 37,303 fans at the 80,000-capacity ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

The NRL season was suspended in March, but restarted in May under strict Covid-19 protocols.

"We did it the hard way there," said Storm captain Cameron Smith, 37, who finished with 14 points.

"But the feeling is awesome. We haven't been home for about five months and, to cap off a pretty challenging season, we'll take that."

Suliasi Vunivalu's 60-metre solo try was the pick of Melbourne's 22-0 first-half display and the defending champions, who finished second behind their opponents in the regular season, continued their dominance after the break.

Full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen extended the lead minutes after the restart with a wonderful 70-metre intercepted try, as hooker Smith, making his 430th NRL appearance, kicked 10 points to compliment his cheeky first-half try.

The Panthers replied through tries from Brian To'o and Stephen Crichton as Melbourne's game began to unravel when Jahrome Hughes was sent off for a professional foul with nine minutes to play.

A fourth Panthers try with just three seconds to play set up a nail-biting finish, but Storm, who also saw Brandon Smith sin-binned in the final minute, held on to secure their fourth title in 11 years.

Storm captain Cameron Smith lifts the NRL trophy
Storm captain Cameron Smith lifts the NRL trophy
Melbourne Storm players
Storm players line up for the national anthem ahead of the Grand Final in Sydney, which was allowed to go ahead in front of fans
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