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The Melbourne Storm have firmed up a top four spot on the NRL ladder, running out 30-10 winners over an error-prone Cronulla Sharks at a chilly Olympic Park this evening.
With a number of players missing through injury, the Storm dug deep against a determined opposition, the Sharks dominating possession for much of the opening stanza.
But a combination of ordinary completion rates and poor handling stifled the Sharks attack. The visitors were also hampered by a number of injuries with forwards Johnny Mannah (back) and Kade Snowden (shoulder) spending time off the field. Centre Matthew Wright was also sidelined following a heavy tackle around the neck that saw Storm's Jeff Lima placed on report.
Nevertheless, the home side defended well and opened the scoring through rookie winger Brett Anderson in the 14th minute. A failed conversion attempt from Cameron Smith kept the score at 4-0 in favour of the Storm, and saw the match through to half time.
The Storm went further ahead soon after the break following a gift two points, referee Ben Cummins opting to penalise Cronulla for being in front of the kicker during a line drop out.
But the Sharks struck back, finally getting on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute through winger Luke Covell following a strong run from centre Ben Pomeroy. A tremendous sideline conversion from Covell took the score to 6-all, and with the wind at their backs, the Sharks looked a chance to go on with it.
But the Storm went up a few cogs, delivering a thunderous display of attacking football and sealing the match with no less than four tries between the 60th and 69th minutes. Winger Joseph Tomane, forward Ryan Hinchcliffe and centre Will Chambers all crossed with Brett Anderson getting the second of his double to take the score to 24-6.
The Sharks rallied one last time with winger Blake Ferguson brilliantly finishing off a movement out wide in the 72nd minute.
But the Melbourne crowd had the last laugh through hooker Cameron Smith, the Storm skipper throwing a dummy and stepping his way through some would-be defenders to score four minutes from full time.
The successful conversion from Tomane posted the final 30-10 score line.
Match Details Melbourne Storm 30 def Cronulla Sharks10 Round 20 - Saturday July 25th, 2009 07:30pm Venue: Olympic Park, Melbourne Referee: Ben Cummins & Brett Suttor Touch Judges: David Abood & Adam Reid Video Referee: Steve Clark Crowd: 10,533 Halftime: Storm 4-0
Melbourne Storm 30 Tries: Brett Anderson (2), Joseph Tomane, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Will Chambers, Cameron Smith Goals: Cameron Smith (2/5), Joseph Tomane (1/2) Cronulla Sharks (10) Tries: Luke Covell, Blake Ferguson Goals: Luke Covell (1/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Sika Manu (Storm) 2 Points: Brett Finch (Storm) 1 Point: Bryan Norrie (Sharks)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Storm v Sharks forum discussion - click here!
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Dane Nielsen 3. Will Chambers 21. Brett Anderson 5. Joseph Tomane 6. Brett Finch 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Brett White 9. Cam Smith (c) 18. Matthew Cross 11. Sika Manu 16. Aiden Tolman 15. Scott Anderson Interchange: 10. Adam Blair 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 17. Jeff Lima 20. Hep Cahill SHARKS: 1. Nathan Stapleton 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. Matthew Wright 5. Luke Covell 6. Trent Barrett 7. Scott Porter 8. Kade Snowden 9. Corey Hughes 15. Johnny Mannah 10. Luke Douglas 11. Reece Williams 12. Grant Millington Interchange: 14. Jack Afamasaga 16. Mitch Brown 17. Terence Seu Seu 24. Bryan Norrie
The Storm playing at home on a chilly night, and they will be tested with players out including a number of key forwards as well as Greg Inglis in the backs. Sharks with a good record here in Melbourne and have just lock Anthony Tupou missing from the card.
10 min: Storm with an opportunity in the early exchanges but since then the Sharks have been mostly on the attack at the home side's end of the field. Both sides making a few errors.
12 min: INJURY - Sharks forward Johnny Mannah forced off with what could be a back injury. Bryan Norrie comes on as replacement.
14 min: Possible TRY to Storm. Video ref looking... Verdict...
14 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Rookie back Brett Anderson scores 12m wide of the posts. Survives video ref scrutiny over possible obstruction as well as checking the put-down. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 4-0
20 min: Storm on the attack! A pass from Brett Finch aimed at Brett Anderson is knocked down by Sharks winger Blake Ferguson. Ferguson saving a certain try.
23 min: INJURIES - More Sharks players in trouble with prop Kade Snowden coming off with looks like a dislocated shoulder. Meanwhile centre Matthew Wright goes down and is being attended to - trainers worried about a possible neck injury.
On the upside, previously injured Mannah is back on the bench.
Good news, Wright is back on his feet, but will probably have to take a spell in the sheds.
ON REPORT - Storm's Jeff Lima is on report for a dangerous tackle on Wright.
29 min: Sharks winger Luke Covell leaps high to a kick but is unable to get the ball down inside the dead ball line.
30 min: Sharks with the lion's share of field position in this first half. Also enjoying around 55% possession. Poor completion rates from both sides, Sharks making the most errors.
38 min: Sustained pressure from the Sharks attacking the Melbourne line, but they are unable to break through. Sharks with another repeat set at the line just before halftime.
39 min: The Storm defend well, and will have the last use of the ball before the break.
Half time: Storm 4-0 A gripping first half, low scoring. Full of errors injuries and then some to add to the drama.
Realistically, the Sharks should be two tries ahead, they have dominated possession and field position but just haven't been able to convert their opportunities into points.
With the wind at their backs in the first half, the Storm lifted to reach a satisfactory completion rate. But the Sharks completions are pretty woeful, down around the 50% mark.
On the injury front, the Sharks appear to have 16 men with Snowden yet to get back on the bench.
Sharks will have use of the wind in the second half. If they hang onto the ball, they should win. But the Storm are threatening to go up another gear.
Second half underway...
43 min: PENALTY GOAL Melbourne Storm Storm get a penalty right in front for Sharks player(s) offside - in front of the kicker during a line drop out. A gift two points. Player was definitely offside but it's sure to spark debate over the pettiness of the decision. Melbourne Storm 6-0
47 min: Sharks get a couple of penalties after Terence Seu Seu was upended. A bit of niggle is creeping into the match now.
50 min: Kade Snowden back on the field for the Sharks.
52 min: Possible TRY to Sharks. Video ref looking.... Verdict...
52 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Covell scores in the corner. Follows a powerful run from centre Ben Pomeroy who threw a speculator as he was going down, the ball eventually finding Covell out wide. BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT - Sharks survive video scrutiny over possible knock-on. Top shelf sideline conversion by Covell is successful. 6 all
56 min: INJURY - Sharks five eighth Trent Barrett knocked out after getting his head in the wrong place. He's OK, gets up, looks around and is ready to go again. But Sharks lose possession and an attacking opportunity as Barrett knocked-on in the process.
60 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Winger Joseph Tomane scores 10m in from touch following a superb cross-field kick from Finch. Follows yet another handling error from the Sharks whilst in possession. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 12-6
64 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Ryan Hinchcliffe takes a clever inside pass from Finch to score 12m wide of the posts. Cooper Cronk involved in the lead up as the Storm have definitely gone up a gear. Cameron Smith misses a relatively easy conversion attempt. Melbourne Storm 16-6
From the restart, Sharks kick out on the full!
66 min: Possible TRY to the Storm. Video ref looking... Verdict...
67 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Brett Anderson gets a double, crashing over out wide. Cameron Smith and Billy Slater involved in the backline leadup. Conversion attempt by Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 20-6
69 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Centre Will Chambers makes a simple run for the corner, dummies and then scores. All over red rover. Storm have dominated possession in the last 10 minutes. Sharks look spent but might have something left in the tank. Conversion attempt by Joseph Tomane unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 24-6
72 min: Possible TRY to Sharks. Video ref looking... Verdict...
72 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Winger Blake Ferguson finishes brilliantly to touch down in the corner, despite the presence of some solid cover defence including Billy Slater. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell hits the upright and is unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 24-10
76 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Cameron Smith standing at first receiver, dummies and steps his way through the defence to score 10m wide of the posts. Set up by a solid run at the line and quick play-the-ball from backrower Sika Manu in the previous ruck. Conversion attempt by Joseph Tomane successful. Melbourne Storm 30-10
80 min: Melbourne's Bily Slater held up in the dying seconds, no try... and that's all folks.
Full time: Storm 30-10 Storm too good and running away with it in the end, a possession percentage turnaround being the key. The Sharks their own worst enemies at times with too many missed tackles and handling errors. Plenty of courage from both sides. Bryan Norrie working overtime off the Sharks bench to cover for a string of injuries. Sharks second rower Luke Douglas also trying hard all night. Plenty of standouts for the Storm with forward Sika Manu the pick of the pack, showing plenty of go forward and working hard in defence. The entire Strom pack performed well, allowing half back Brett Finch the room to set up some nice plays wide of the ruck.