The Melbourne Storm were far too strong for the Cronulla Sharks as they march on to the NRL Grand Final after a 22-6 win at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The Storm opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a Cameron Smith penalty goal but it was the Sharks who dominated field position early. The Storm scored the first try in the 19th minute when Brodie Croft finished off a Billy Slater break down the sideline. It was Slater’s turn to score 10 minutes later when he broke through a Matt Moylan tackle close to the line and strolled over to extend the lead to 14-0. Slater was in again just before the break when he jumped on a Smith grubber and the Storm went into half-time with a 20-0 lead.
Both sides had plenty of scoring opportunities early in the second half but could not take advantage. Smith made it 22-0 through a penalty goal in the 64th minute after Jesse Ramien took out Slater off the ball. The Sharks were eventually on the board in the 68th minute after a strong Luke Lewis run in his final game of NRL but ultimately the Storm were too good, coming away with a 22-6 win and a spot in the grand final.
SLATER STARS BUT IN DANGER OF MISSING GRAND FINAL
It was a standout performance from the star fullback, scoring two tries and setting up another, as well as running for 189 metres and 11 tackle breaks. However, he is now in serious danger of missing the all important grand final next week after being charged by the Match Review Committee for a shoulder charge on Sosaia Feki in the 14th minute.
Slater was running across in cover defense and stopped a certain try but did so with a shoulder charge to bundle Feki out of touch. He has been charged with a Grade 1 offence, and will have to fight the charge at the judiciary if he wants to feature in next week’s match in his final season.
SHARKS INJURIES TOO MUCH TO OVERCOME
It was a valiant effort on Friday night and all season long but the injuries to key Sharks players were ultimately too much to overcome. With no Wade Graham and Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis playing on injured and Feki leaving the match early, it was always going to be a tough ask, but they just couldn’t get on top.
It’s a case of what could have been for Cronulla as many had them premiership favourites going into the finals.
STORM WIN ON THE BACK OF THEIR DEFENSE
While Slater was brilliant in attack, it was the defensive effort of the Melbourne Storm that got them through. The Sharks had plenty of scoring opportunities but never looked likely against a stout Storm defensive line.
Melbourne will take plenty of confidence into next week’s decider after only allowing one try, but will face a tough test against a Roosters side with plenty of attacking power.
LEWIS INSPIRATIONAL IN FINAL GAME
It wasn’t the dream ending he would have hoped for but Luke Lewis put in another inspirational showing in his last ever NRL game. Playing with an injured knee, he was clearly in pain all night but kept turning up and capped it off with a late try.
It’s been an incredible career for the Sharks back rower, and he showed again on Friday night why he is still one of the toughest players to ever play in the NRL.
MELBOURNE STORM 22
Tries: Brodie Croft, Billy Slater 2
Goals: Cameron Smith 5/5
Drop Goals: n/a
CRONULLA SHARKS 6
Tries: Luke Lewis
Goals: Valentine Holmes 1/1
Drop Goals: n/a
Melbourne Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Christian Welch, 17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 18 Brandon Smith
Cronulla Sharks: 1 Valentime Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Kurt Capewell, 16 Aaron Woods Interchange: 14 Scott Sorensen, 15 James Segeyaro, 17 Jason Bukuya, 20 Joseph Paulo