The Cronulla Sharks handed their grand-rivals Melbourne Storm their first loss of the season with a gritty 11-2 victory. Here are five key points from their clash at AAMI Park.
The reigning premiers rose to the occasion
The Sharks entered the grand final rematch in unconvincing form after a fortunate 19-18 win over the Newcastle Knights but provided their gutsiest performance of the season against the Storm who were yet to taste defeat. The visitors more than rose to the occasion for their first-ever win at AAMI Park and their first in Melbourne since Round 2, 2008. Coach Shane Flanagan and captain Paul Gallen were thrilled with their side’s effort in finally recapturing the form that carried them to last year’s premiership decider. The victory lifts them into third position on the ladder with a 4-2 record.
Another error-riddled Storm performance
While Melbourne opened their season with a perfect 5-0 record, they were guilty of several sloppy efforts but their sensational defence afforded them the luxury of withstanding lacklustre periods in matches. However, they were made to pay for another error-riddled first-half performance by the reigning premiers, which they couldn’t overcome after half-time. The Storm completed just 14 of their 23 first-half sets before finishing with 27 out of 40 sets for the match. It left coach Craig Bellamy at a loss when explaining his side’s attacking lapses, and re-iterated the drastic need to amend their errors for the rest of the season.
No love lost in Grand Final rematch
There was certainly plenty of animosity between the two sides in their first match since the Storm suffered a heart-breaking 14-12 premiership-deciding defeat. Both sides, particularly in the forwards, brought out the best of their counterparts as they threw everything they had despite the difficult wet-weather conditions. In a fiery first-20-minute exchange, it climaxed after James Maloney was penalised for an ugly head-high tackle. It carried on at half-time, as there was plenty of banter and bickering with both sides heading to the sheds. It sets up another captivating clash for Round 14, June 8, at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
James Maloney outwitted the Storm
It’s rare a team as smart as Melbourne are ever caught out but Sharks half Maloney cleverly took advantage of a napping Storm defence to kick a field goal early in the tackle count for a valuable 3-2 lead with 10 minutes left. It came after his comments jokingly made earlier this week that he might be out of a job following Cooper Cronk’s announcement to move to Sydney. Maloney enjoyed the last laugh against the side he debuted with as well in securing a monumental road win for the reigning premiers at AAMI Park.
James Segeyaro comes up trumps
Prized recruit James Segeyaro showed why the Sharks chased the classy hooker this season. His introduction midway through the second half injected Cronulla with a quick burst from dummy half. First he set up a repeat set with a clever kick and then in the ensuing set he drove a smart grubber kick on the Storm’s tryline before Billy Slater fumbled the ball for Segeyaro to pounce on and claim an unassailable 9-2 lead with five minutes left to play. It was a crucial play for a team desperate for a landmark win to build on this season.