Consider it a Craig Bellamy masterstroke.
Melbourne arrived on Penrith’s home patch as the underdog on Thursday night, but Bellamy played Cameron Munster at fullback and Nelson Asofa-Solomona as an edge backrower.
The result of the double-edged shake-up was a 16-0 triumph.
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As Munster registered 194 run metres, made a linebreak and continually asked questions of the Panthers defence, Asofa-Solomona piled up 130 run metres, including 48 post-contact, churned out 25 tackles and ran damaging lines at Viliame Kikau and Penrith’s halves.
“He was special tonight,” Sonny Bill Williams said of Asofa-Solomona’s game on Nine’s post-match show.
“Those post-contact meters were through the middle of the ruck. I think in that first 20 (minutes) he was special. He laid that platform.
“Melbourne coming into this game needed a couple of their big guys to stand up, and he certainly did that, whether that was through the middle or out wide tonight.
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“When we talk Melbourne we talk Munster, we talk the Cheese (Brandon Smith), but guys like this — these are the guys who are going to get them that (premiership) ring that they want at the end of the year.”
Andrew Johns was also impressed by Asofa-Solomona’s performance.
“The coaching decision to put him on Kikau — it was a masterstroke,” he said.
Munster began his NRL career as a fullback and returned to his native position last week, filling in for Ryan Papenhuyzen (knee) and Nick Meaney (concussion).
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The Queensland State of Origin playmaker retained the fullback role for the Panthers clash despite the return of Meaney, who played at five-eighth.
“He creates something out of nothing all the time,” Asofa-Solomona said of Munster.
“When they kick the ball down he’s running the ball back and you don’t have to turn to get the ball. He’s already just got the ball and taking it 20 meters.
“When you’ve got Munster in the team you’re a good chance of winning the game, I reckon.”
Cooper Johns, Melbourne’s halfback while Jahrome Hughes is sidelined with a shoulder injury, described Munster at fullback as “dynamic”.
“Pops up (on) both sides,” Johns said.
“But he’s a world-class five-eighth, too.”
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