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Melbourne have finished Monday night football how it started, snaring victory from the jaws of defeat. They beat Cronulla 20-18 in front of 12,497 fans at AAMI Park.
The final Monday night game for 2012, started off slowly with both teams, settling into the groove but neither could keep a hold of the ball with errors a plenty in the opening twenty minutes.
It took Slater working off a play the ball which sucked in several defenders, to stab one through for Sisa Waqa to touch down for the opening points in the contest.
Melbourne though, weren't able to control the ball, knocking it on in promising positions.
Cronulla were able to capitalise when Quinn dropped a simple kick. Paul Gallen and Sam Tagataease combined for the latter to cross and hand Cronulla a 6-4 lead on halftime.
Coming back onto the field with ears ringing, both teams were looking to improve their completion rates. Melbourne didn't heed this warning, knocking on in the opening set.
Sharks followed it up with earning a penalty, opting for the penalty goal. Todd Carney added the two to hand them a four point lead.
Momentum was running with Cronulla, as they were steaming downfield in each attacking set.
The second try came from a Gallen offload which sent Nathan Stapleton over extending the lead to ten.
The Storm wouldn't go quietly, they reduced the deficit to four when Ryan Hoffman pounced on a rebound from Dane Nielsen to give Melbourne a chance. He was involved again when his run cost Gareth Widdop a try due to obstruction.
This turned out to be a twelve point play when Cronulla went downfield in the next set and Isaac Gordon backed his way over the tryline and was deemed to have got the ball down from the video referee.
Cronulla led 18-10 and well on their way to a home final.
It seemed like it ust wouldn't click for Melbourne. Every attacking raid was curtailed by an error or great defense from the Sharks. It took some free flowing offloads to get them within striking distance.
Ryan Hoffman got his second try of the match when he took advantage of the stretched defensive line, stepped inside and scored beside the posts. Smith quickly converted and it was 18-16 and one minute for Melbourne to win it.
That they did, Billy Slater almost sent halfback Cooper Cronk through a gap before being taken down ten metres short. Sisa Waqa got into dummy-half went down the blindside, passed to Will Chambers to win the game for Melbourne, 20-18.
Tonight's result sets up a thrilling last round for both sides in tonight's contest. Melbourne will head to Sydney, to face Wests Tigers where if the Bulldogs slip up could win them the minor premiership. Cronulla will head home, playing for a home final against North Queensland who are playing for a top four spot.
Melbourne Storm 20 defeated Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 18
National Rugby League - Round 25 - Monday August 27, 2012 7:00pm
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Shayne Hayne and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Adam Reid and David Munro
Halftime: Melbourne Storm 4 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Billy Slater
2 Points - Paul Gallen
1 Point - Ryan Hoffman (2 Tries)
Melbourne Storm (20)
Tries: Ryan Hoffman (2), Will Chambers, Sisa Waqa
Conversions: Cameron Smith (2/4)
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (18)
Tries: Nathan Stapleton, Sam Tagataese, Isaac Gordon
Conversions: Todd Carney (2/3)
Penalty Goals: Todd Carney (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary There's a smell in the air.. finals football! Tonight we have Melbourne hosting Cronulla at AAMI Park with both teams heading to September, looking for premiership glory.
Earlier in the Toyota Cup, Melbourne held on to record a 24 to 12 victory over Cronulla.
MEL - Only one change for the Storm, Justin O'Neill is out replaced by Dane Nielsen.
CRO - Three changes for the Sharks. Matthew Wright, Ben Ross and Anthony Tupou are out replaced by Isaac Gordon. Sam Tagataease and Tyson Frizell.
Here come the Sharks for kick-off to a mild chorus of boos, mixed with nothingness as they take their position. Melbourne follow to cheers and walk out onto AAMI Park for their last regular season home game in 2012.
Cameron Smith with boot to ball, here we go!
3 min: Steady start from both sides.. getting to their last tackle kick and working into their groove.
6 min: Piece of luck for the Storm, getting a six again call from a loose pass.
8 min: Sharks make a break down the right through Best and earn six more from Smith touching the ball. It goes to naught though, as it's lost.
8 min: Followed by a cheap penalty which will help Melbourne from their own end.
10 min: Waqa leaps high on the last tackle bomb but drops it coming to ground. Changeover.
12 min: Good interchanging of passes sends Melbourne into the Shark's half but Widdop after a incisive run loses the ball. Sharks have dodged a bullet.
14 min: It seems the Storm are stringing some passes together but when threatening to break the line, they have lost it on a few occasions.
15 min: Taufua tries to keep the ball alive with an offload but an impossible pass doesn't stick to Carney.
16 min: Penalty Storm, Sharks taking out a player without the ball.
17 min: Has someone put soap on the ball, Cronk sends a simple pass to Manu who is running onto it and he drops it.
18 min: Sharks can't complete a set either.. handing it right over.
18 min: Widdop breaks a tackle and stabs one through for Quinn and Nielsen but the bounce favors Stapleton who bats it over the line.
21 min: TRY
Well that was a very on spot move from Slater.. after Manu needed several defenders to wrap him up. Slater from dummy-half stabs one in and Waqa touches down! Smith with a tough assignment first up, misses.
Melbourne Storm 4-0
22 min: Things might have clicked for the Storm, offloads are coming but there is still errant passes, namely this one to Waqa which dribbles over the sideline.
24 min: Sika Manu has had an unhappy start tonight... dropped ball now conceded a penalty.
25 min: Looking energetic here the Sharks, Carney drifts across field and throws a cut-out to Stapleton which is forward and knocked on.
26 min: Error from Slater, that is rare and piles more pressure on the Storm line.
26 min: Set move here with Jeremy Smith passing to Gallen but he's taken simultaneously, spilling it.
27 min: Neither side can handle the ball, another error from the Storm coming out of their own half.
29 min: BREAKING: Both teams have completed a set.
32 min: Sisa Waqa is down after some contact in the air and it'll be called for a penalty, harsh on the Sharks there.
34 min: Anthony Quinn has made a meal of a relatively easy kick, taking it and spills the ball. Great attacking opportunity for the visitors.
37 min: TRY
That try came from a determined run. Paul Gallen goes into ball playing mode, giving a lovely ball to Tagataease who bumps off one defender and gets it down on the line. Carney from an easy angle, converts.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6-4
39 min: Fearless take from Gordon! Running full pelt and caught it up near his head.
40 min: Storm end the half how they started, knocking it on. Allowing Cronulla one opportunity, luckily it fell to Tagataease who is tackled. HALFTIME.
Both teams have made their way back out, with a simple message.. complete your sets! Sharks will kick-off and here we go for the second half!
41 min: Melbourne haven't heeded the warning, lost it in the first set. Sharks will come onto the attack.
42 min: Sharks earn a penalty and opt for the two.
43 min: PENALTY GOAL
Carney from beside the posts, slots it.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 8-4
47 min: Storm aren't clicking tonight.. a penalty against them here for a strip.
50 min: TRY
The offload from Gallen brings a result, he gets it to his centre then Stapleton is the one who strolls in after the quick pass. Carney from near the posts, slots it.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 14-4
55 min: TRY
Storm have finally got some fluidity into their attack, Slater went close to breaking through. The kick across is rebounded to Hoffman who slams it down! Storm are back into the contest. Smith converts. Four point ball game.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 14-10
56 min: They look much more like the Storm of old, with offloads and hard running. It earns them a penalty and they'll go deep on the attack.
59 min: Almost through there.. Storm pass goes wide and forward, picked up by Stapleton. Sharks will earn six more after a knock down.
62 min: Bombs away from Melbourne.. Stapleton touches it and so does Leutele who is in front of him.. PENALTY!
VIDEO REFEREE: Upstairs we go, It looked too easy for Widdop there. Checking the infamous obstruction.
62 min: NO TRY! Ryan Hoffman took out Sam Tagataease who was unable to get a sufficient grab on Widdop.
63 min: Now a penalty for the Sharks.. they'll get a chance to extend their lead again.
VIDEO REFEREE: Checking if Isaac Gordon has got the ball down.
65 min: TRY
GREEN LIGHTS.. TRY! Video referee thought Gordon got it done and presses the green button. A nice sweeping move put Gordon into the hole and he backed his way over the line. Carney hooks the conversion wide.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 18-10
67 min: Been an unhappy night for Quinn, he's spilled it again off a Ryles offload.
69 min: Quick dart from Slater, earns the Storm a penalty.
70 min: Last tackle, Cronk goes himself and TACKLED by Frizell. Changeover.
71 min: PENALTY.. Slater is taken out going for the kick.
72 min: Manu is charging but he's dropped it. Sharks survive.
75 min: KNOCK ON Stapleton! He took the catch but spilled it.
75 min: Another knock on from the Storm.. that will finish them tonight.
76 min: Right from the scrum, Melbourne concede a penalty. Sharks will wind this down now.
79 min: TRY
Melbourne are throwing it around and make it count.. Hoffman steps back inside and slams it down! Smith quickly converts. Melbourne will have ONE SET.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 18-16
80 min: TRY
THEY HAVE DONE IT! Melbourne throw it around with abandon, working it upfield. Slater slices through and almost sent ronk away, he was tackled. Waqa ignored the open left side and goes to Chambers who walks in the winner! Smith misses it but MELBOURNE HAVE WON!
Melbourne Storm 20-18