The Cronulla Sharks have won 17-14 in an absolute thriller against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks were the first to score in the 7th minute when Jayden Brailey scooted out of dummy half, beating four defenders to score next to the posts. The Storm responded in the 22nd minute when Suliasi Vunivalu finished off a slick backline movement and a brilliant Will Chambers flick pass to score in the corner. The Sharks looked the better side for the majority of the first half and Valentine Holmes took his try tally to 19 in 2018, taking advantage of a miraculous Sosaia Feki ball from the sideline. A Chad Townsend field goal with two minutes left meant the Sharks went into the break with a 13-4 lead.
The Storm wouldn’t go down without a fight and scored just four minutes into the second half when Billy Slater jumped on a Cameron Munster grubber kick to reduce the deficit to three points. Melbourne kept the pressure on all half but the Sharks continued to send them away. Cronulla scored against the run of play when Jesse Ramien scooped up an errant Munster pass to race 80 metres up field, Josh Dugan finishing it off. Vunivalu got his second with eight minutes left to set up a grandstand finish but the Sharks did enough to secure a 17-14 victory.
DEFENCE THE KEY IN WIN
After a poor performance against the Sea Eagles last week, the Sharks stepped up in a big way against a strong attacking outfit in the Storm. Melbourne had numerous opportunities to score in the second half but Cronulla’s goal line defence would not be beaten.
The highlights were two last ditch tackles to prevent Curtis Scott and Joe Stimson from almost certain tries. If the Sharks can keep up defensive efforts like what they showed today, they can give themselves a real shot at contending for a title.
STORM’S UNCHARACTERISTIC ATTACKING PERFORMANCE
Whilst the Sharks defence was impressive, the Storm often struggled in attack, lacking direction and consistency. It was a rare off day for Cameron Smith, highlighted by a few errors, particularly in his kicking game.
The Storm have now lost two in a row and sit two points behind joint leaders the Roosters and Rabbitohs. It’s not time to panic yet but coach Craig Bellamy will know there’s still room for improvement before finals begin.
SHARKS BACK IN TOP FOUR HUNT
After consecutive losses to the Broncos and Sea Eagles, the Sharks are now right back in the hunt for a top four finish. They’re only one win behind the Storm and the Panthers who sit in third and fourth, respectively, and with a favourable run home they have a real chance of overtaking either side.
Everyone knows how tough it is to win from outside that all important top four, so the Sharks will have plenty of motivation to finish off the season strong and give them a real chance to win the grand final.
FLANAGAN SWEATS ON GRAHAM INJURY
In the only downside for the Sharks, Wade Graham left the field late in the first half with a knee injury and didn’t return. Coach Shane Flanagan will be hoping it’s nothing serious, knowing how important Graham is to his side.
He’s one of the best edge forwards in the competition and adds so much to their attack. If the Sharks are going to finish the season as premiers, they need Graham.
MELBOURNE STORM 14
Tries: Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Billy Slater
Goals: Cameron Smith 1/3
Drop Goals: n/a
CRONULLA SHARKS 17
Tries: Jayden Brailey, Valentine Holmes, Josh Dugan
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2/3
Drop Goals: Chad Townsend 1
Melbourne Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 17 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane Interchange: 12 Ryan Hoffman, 14 Kenneath Bromwich, 15 Tim Glasby, 16 Christian Welch
Cronulla Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Josh Dugan, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 20 Sosaia Feki, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen Interchange: 14 Scott Sorensen, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jason Bukuya