Sharks score hard-earned win over Storm as penalties pile up
Two sin-binnings, a whopping 33 penalties, a player on report, two key personnel missing for the Cronulla Sharks and they still managed an upset win over reigning Telstra Premiership champions Melbourne Storm 14-4 at Southern Cross Stadium.
It turned out to be a very Good Friday for the Sharks. It was their first win at home for 2018 as they broke even for the season - two wins and two losses.
Even more tellingly they managed to frustrate an uncharacteristically error-prone Melbourne, who did not cross the Sharks line all night, though Ryan Hoffman was held up in the 33rd minute.
The last time the Storm were held try-less was also at the hands of the Sharks, 11-2 in round six last year at AAMI Park.
But to mirror the ill-feeling between the 2016 grand final opponents, the last five seconds of the game was spent with players from both sides locked in a melee.
The pushing and shoving continued even after the full-time hooter sounded as Sharks co-captain Paul Gallen and Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona refused to let go of each other.
Two minutes before full-time Melbourne centre Will Chambers had been placed on report for a grapple tackle.
The visitors' agitation levels grew to such heights that they back-chatted referee Matt Cecchin three times and were marched 10 metres every time. But when Cameron Smith tried it a fourth time Cecchin sent him to the sin-bin in the 52nd minute.
The 13,000-strong Cronulla faithful turned on the Test captain, jeering and booing him all the way off the field and up the tunnel.
Match: Sharks vs Storm
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
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Brandon Smith, who came into the side at the 11th hour for the injured Kenny Bromwich (elbow) slipped into the No.9 role.
A momentous victory over Melbourne came without the two key off-season signings for the Sharks - Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan. Both were ruled out with leg injuries, which the club says should only keep them out a week.
It was Moylan's second straight week on the sidelines, allowing Trent Hodkinson to show his wares again under the nose of coach Shane Flanagan.
Cronulla showed both great resilience and significant ill-discipline themselves in the first half.
They had a 10-6 penalty count against them, were down to 12 men while Luke Lewis was in the sin-bin, and still the Storm were unable to score a try. Maybe that could be put down to the fact the Sharks only missed five tackles in the opening 40 minutes.
In fact, it took the Storm 36 minutes before they registered any points. They finally got on the scoreboard with a Joe Stimson penalty goal.
The Sharks’ Holden Cup under 20 centre of the year in 2017, Jesse Ramien, is showing he is first grade quality.
Ramien sent a one-handed flick pass perfectly for Edrik Lee to score in the north-eastern corner in the 24th minute. It was the only four-pointer of the match.
The Sharks also forced their way into the top eight for the first time after four rounds and next weekend remain at home to play the Sydney Roosters.
The Storm is off across the Tasman Sea playing the Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.