The Melbourne Storm paid homage to their captain with a comprehensive 40-16 victory over the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Enterprising play from the Storm in the opening exchanges ensured they scored the first points of the clash. An inch-perfect grubber kick from fullback Jahrome Hughes was collected and grounded by five-eighth Cameron Munster to send the Storm out to a 6-0 lead. A penalty goal to the Storm elevated the score to 8-0, before the Sharks hit back via their left edge. A brilliant offload from Bronson Xerri saw winger Aaron Gray score the Sharks’ first try (8-4). Two further penalty goals added to the Storm’s tally (12-4). Following a repeat set, a determined Brandon Smith burrowed his way to the line and sent the Storm into half-time with an 18-4 lead.
Two early tries to the Sharks, courtesy of Kurt Capewell and Shaun Johnson, momentarily halted the Storm (18-16). A resurgence occurred just minutes later, when Storm halfback Brodie Croft stepped his way to the line (24-16). Following a powerful run from Nelson Asofa-Solomona, a deft kick from Kenneath Bromwich sent youngster Justin Olam over to score his first NRL try for the Storm (30-16). Great runs from Joe Stimson and Brandon Smith bagged two further tries for the Storm and secured a remarkable 40-16 victory.
Cameron Smith, arguably the greatest player of all time. 400 games – an extraordinary achievement when considering his position and the amount he contributes each week. Becoming the first player ever in the NRL to reach the milestone, the notable victory paid tribute to Smith and his wonderful career to date.
Young guns fire
No doubt motivated to secure victory for their beloved captain, the Storm’s young players were instrumental against the Sharks. The tries to Brodie Croft, Justin Olam, Brandon Smith and Joe Stimson serve as a perfect example. Their willingness to immerse themselves in the game, in both attack and defence, was wonderful to watch.
Errors prove costly
Whilst the Sharks orchestrated a comeback in the early stages of the second half, their unforced errors were ultimately their undoing. Their 61% completion rate, 39 missed tackles and 13 errors were telling statistics in the context of the game.
Four in a row
The Sharks’ four straight losses has demoted them to ninth place on the NRL ladder. Whilst they have had numerous injury concerns, their consistency has left a lot to be desired. For the Sharks to reign victorious in the coming weeks over the New Zealand Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys and Penrith Panthers, it is imperative that they alleviate their defensive lapses and improve their coherence in attack.
Melbourne Storm 40
Tries: Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith 2, Brodie Croft, Justin Olam, Joe Stimson
Goals: Cameron Smith 8
Cronulla Sharks 16
Tries: Aaron Gray, Kurt Capewell, Shaun Johnson
Goals: Shaun Johnson 2
Melbourne Storm: 1 Jahrome Hughes, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 18 Justin Olam, 5 Johs Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Cronulla Sharks: 20 Aaron Gray, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Bronson Xerri, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Josh Morris, 6 Shaun Johnson, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 16 Aaron Woods, 11 Briton Nikora, 14 Kurt Capewell, 10 Matt Prior. Interchange: 13 Jack Williams, 15 Jayson Bukuya, 17 Braden Hamlen-Uele, 21 Blayke Brailey.