Storm v Sharks: Five key points
The Storm did it easily against the Sharks in Melbourne, and here are five key points to take away from the Telstra Premiership Round 3 match at AAMI Park.
Tohu Harris breaks his drought
It may only be March but Tohu Harris could be forgiven for thinking Christmas came early on Saturday night. After going without a try last season Harris doubled his career tally with a first-half brace against the Sharks. The 23-year-old showed he is more than capable of holding down the No.12 jersey in the post-Ryan Hoffman era, finishing with 153 metres and 24 tackles to go with his two tries. The man of the match received due praise from both his captain and coach post-match.
"Myself, the senior players and the coaches have been looking for more of a presence from Tohu on the field and he's certainly provided that this year," Cameron Smith said.
"We need that on our edge from him this year, we've been waiting for that for a while. He is a quality player, we've known that but we just needed him to realise that himself."
Craig Bellamy also noted the strides the Kiwi International has taken early this season.
"I think he's got a little bit quicker than he has been, he's been working really hard on that," he said.
"He's always had good footwork, good skill and he's got a good motor. We are expecting a big year off him and he's started off on the right note."
Melbourne find that offensive groove
After a sloppy opening two rounds offensively, Melbourne looked like a well-oiled machine on Saturday night. After putting up completion rates in the low 70s during the opening two rounds, the home side finished the 80 minutes with 89 per cent on the back of just five errors. The Storm scored three tries after completing their first 14 sets of the match to race out to an 18-0 lead and kill the contest within 25 minutes.
"We were disappointed with our completion rate in Round 1. We've been working hard on that at training and it's great to see that it worked tonight," skipper Cameron smith said.
"There's no secret that if we hold the ball it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition, we wanted to do that tonight and it came off."
We don't want to come back!
We'd understand if Cronulla fans were hesitant before booking flights should their side have to travel south again next season. The road trip has not been kind to the Sharks in recent times, with their past three visits result in losing margins of 42, 32 and 18 respectively. After the home side had three early tries on the board Cronulla would have been having flashbacks to the six-try barrage they endured during the first half of their last visit seven months ago. With the last four meetings between the two sides all being at AAMI Park and falling the way of the hosts, the Sharks will be looking forward to finally turning the tables when they meet again at Remondis Stadium in Round 23.
Luke Lewis makes successful return
The one shining light to come out of Saturday night for Cronulla was the return of Luke Lewis. After undergoing minor knee surgery in February the NSW and Kangaroos utility played his first game of the season, coming off the bench to finish with 42 meters from six runs. His switch from the Panthers prior to the 2013 season has been followed by a frustrating few years for player and club with Lewis managing just 28 games over two seasons, including only eight last year. While everyone will be hoping the 31-year-old now finds a touch of good fortune his coach was pleased to have the veteran back in the side.
"He was probably a little bit under done but played a little bit longer than we expected," Shane Flanagan said.
"It will be good for Luke to get that time out there and he will be better for it."
Melbourne big men have their way
The battle up the middle was billed as a crucial heading into the game and by the end of the 80 minutes it fell in favour of the big boys in purple. Harris, Jesse Bromwich and Jordan McLean combined for 439 metres between them compared with just 269m by their opposite numbers. Flanagan bemoaned a lack of possession for his side post-match, but a look at the stats sheet indicates his side had three more sets than Melbourne yet found a way to make 17 fewer runs. Moving forward Cronulla will need to find a way to relieve the burden on skipper Paul Gallen who put in another herculean effort - a game-high 182 metres along with 40 tackles.