The Cronulla Sharks have been overlooked to a degree in the Telstra 2018 NRL Premiership competition, but they sent a loud and clear message to football fans and the other clubs by holding the Melbourne Storm by the ankles and prevent them from getting back on top of the ladder.
Cronulla managed a 17 – 14 win over Melbourne at AAMI Park. The Storm were set to jump from three to one ahead of the Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but that jump will have to wait.
The Sharks victory moved them up to sixth and would seem to secure them a spot in the finals. More importantly, they needed to return to an even keel following two consecutive losses. The fact that they did so by beating the reigning premiers makes the win even more significant.
The game marked the end to eight years’ of frustration in Melbourne. They had not won there since 2009.
The Sharks came out firing and scored by taking advantage of Melbourne miscues to record their first try by hooker Jayden Brailey in just the seventh minute.
The Storm answered, but Cameron Smith missed the kick, so Melbourne was unable to level.
Poor defense by the Storm permitted winger Sosaia Feki to escape down the sideline, where when caught, he was able to flip the ball inside to Valentine Holmes to extend the Shark lead.
Holmes was formidable in the game on defense, tackling Joe Stimson to deny a Storm try with 16 minutes remaining.
Cronulla took a 13 – 4 advantage into the half and added a Chad Townsend field goal that turned out to be helpful in the waning minutes of the game, as Melbourne, courtesy of the combination of Will Chambers and Suliasi Vunivalu combined for two tries.
The Storm subsided thereafter, and could not find the formula to record another try and earn a victory.
Both teams left the game relatively unscathed from the injury perspective. Cronulla lost Wade Graham to a knee injury. Melbourne backrower Ryan Hoffman left the field late with a troublesome hamstring issue.