Melbourne took the short kick-off and Crichton appeared to knock the ball forward into the hands of Mitch Kenny. The Panthers challenged the knock-on call, only for Storm coach Craig Bellamy to angrily demand why his own players were not demanding a penalty.
Bellamy said afterwards of the contentious call: “I thought there was a chance of them being off-side, but apparently it must have come off them and into us.
“I only saw it the once, but that was the call and there’s not much you can do about it now.
“I felt like they [Penrith] were coming the whole 80 minutes.”
The Panthers made it three wins on the bounce but lost Dylan Edwards with a fractured hand.
Edwards was dynamite in the first half as he had six tackle busts, started and finished a set that led to a Storm dropout, and set up Charlie Staines’ four-pointer.
Cleary will need to turn to Crichton, Staines or even Tyrone May to fill the custodian role in the coming weeks.
Losing Edwards is the last thing Penrith needed given they were already missing hooker Api Koroisau (wrist) and Nathan Cleary to a head knock. Edwards is tipped to undergo surgery on Friday.
The frantic first half finished with the super-impressive Matt Burton attempting a two-point field-goal from 45m out.
Burton was injected into the game for Cleary, who failed to shake off a head knock from last weekend, and was nothing short of brilliant.
Handing him man-of-the-match honours, however, ahead of Kikau and his final act will cause debate amongst fans.
The Canterbury-bound playmaker needed just two minutes to launch a monster 55m torpedo bomb. Cleary said on the TV coverage of Burton: “He’s got the biggest boot I’ve ever seen – he absolutely nails them.”
Billy Slater added during the Nine call that it was easy to see why the Bulldogs were making such a noise about wanting Burton to join their club immediately, while Andrew Johns said: “From what I have seen, this guy is an absolute star.”
Burton was happy to kick early in the tackle count, which helped Penrith out of trouble more than once. It took some freakish talent by Nicho Hynes to deny Burton a 40-20 late in the second half. He showed amazing composure in just his seventh NRL game.
One of the big talking points will be Cameron Munster, who could be in hot water for a hip-drop tackle.
Just before half-time Munster dropped his weight to the ground in a three-man tackle on Leniu. Leniu’s left knee became trapped as he was flipped backwards and winced in pain.
The tackle was not placed on report but Leniu was clearly fired up and got in the face of several Storm players as they headed up the tunnel.
The hip-drop tackle involves a player dropping his body weight on to the back of a ball-carrier’s legs or feet. The Storm lost Max King and Jesse Bromwich for three games and one game respectively last year because of the dangerous contact charge.
Bellamy said: “It probably didn’t look good, but [the officials] didn’t see too much wrong with it.”
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.