A Cameron Munster masterclass inspired Melbourne to a 34-18 win over the Sharks in a high-quality clash at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
With Ryan Papenhuyzen, Justin Olam and Nelson Asofa-Solomona also playing starring roles the Storm looked every bit a premiership contender while the Sharks could also take plenty of positives out of the game.
After Nicho Hynes had opened the scoring with a penalty goal it was Olam posting the first try of the night in the 21st minute after Munster had created space on the left with a superb cut-out pass to Nick Meaney who found his centre back on the inside.
The Sharks answered with a brilliant team try which started in their own half with Hynes kicking cross field for Jesse Ramien and was finished off two plays later by Siosifa Talakai after Hynes, Toby Rudolf, Matt Moylan and Will Kennedy had all handled.
Munster then lit up AAMI Park with a dazzling solo try from 40 metres out to make it 12-8 to the home side and they maintained that lead at the break thanks to a Felise Kaufusi trysaver on Moylan.
Olam opens scoring for Melbourne
The Storm made a remarkable start to the second half after Cronulla failed to gather the kick-off and Olam scored from the subsequent scrum 10 metres out.
Some brilliant hands by Talakai opened the door for Ronaldo Mulitalo to hit sraight back for the Sharks in the 47th minute before Munster stepped up again to put Ryan Papenhuyzen in for his eighth try of the season.
Mulitalo's second of the night again came courtesy of a sweet pass from Talakai and the Sharks had shown plenty of resilience to pull back within six points.
A burrowing effort by Harry Grant out of dummy half in the 64th minute gave the Storm breathing space again at 30-18.
Mulitalo gets some air to score
The Sharks were penalised for a high shot on Olam soon after and Papenhuyzen's penalty goal made it 32-18.
Another penalty in the 72nd minute handed Papenhuyzen a simple shot from directly in front, taking his personal tally to 18 points - the most by any Storm player in a game against Cronulla.
Melbourne's win was their fifth of the season and lifted them above the Sharks into second place behind the unbeaten Panthers.
Match: Storm v Sharks
Round 6 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Cronulla's forward leader Dale Finucane lasted just eight minutes before he was taken off for a HIA after an attempted tackle on Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
- Felise Kaufusi was placed on report in the ninth minute for late contact on Nicho Hynes after the Sharks No.7 had passed the ball. Kaufusi went on report again in the second half for a crusher tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo.
- Cameron McInnes went on report for a hip drop tackle on Ryan Papenhuyzen which left the Storm No.1 clutching his ankle.
- Justin Olam was at his tackle busting best for the Storm, coming up with eight for the night, while centre partner Reimis Smith had four.
- Siosifa Talakai is renowned for his power running but it was his soft hands coming to the fore at AAMI Park with two sublime try assists for Ronaldo Mulitalo to score in the left corner.
- The Sharks completed their first 27 sets before a mistake by Jack Williams in the 64th minute finally ended their streak.
- Trent Loiero came into the starting side for the first time in 2022 for the Storm and played the full 80 minutes, making 104 metres from 10 hit-ups.
Play of the Game
Just three minutes after the Sharks had staked their claim for try of the round with a superb team effort, Cameron Munster stole their thunder with one of the great individual tries of 2022. The Storm No.6 got the ball 40 metres and put on a goose step followed by a dummy and a fend on Nicho Hynes before out-pacing Toby Rudolf on the run to the line. The 37th try of Munster's career will certainly rank right up there with his best.
Munster bamboozles Sharks defence
What They Said
"Dale has been amazing for us so far in the middle there, just the confidence he gives to the players either side of him and communication. He's really vocal out there and keeps things level headed and helps the boys play footy off the back of what he's doing." - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon on the loss of Dale Finucane early
"The best thing that ever happened to Cameron Munster was last year when he did what he did to help himself be better. It has worked a treat to be quite honest. He's still the larrikin and we all love that about him but there seems to be a little bit more control around footy and his life in general now and that's a great thing. He'll just get even better and better." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy
The Storm are at home again in round seven as they host the Warriors on Anzac Day. Emotions will run high at AAMI Park from the pre-game ceremony right through the 80 minutes on what is always a special day on the NRL calendar. The Bromwich brothers will be hoping to return after both were ruled out of tonight's game after testing positive to COVID.
The Sharks could welcome back skipper Wade Graham for their home clash with the Sea Eagles on Thursday. Graham hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury in a pre-season trial against the Bulldogs. With a short turnaround they seem certain to be without Braden Hamlin-Uele, who suffered a suspected pectoral injury.