Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
29 hours ago
The Cronulla Sharks have been defeated 28-0 by the Melbourne Storm in dissapointing fashion at the Sydney Football Stadium. 27,570 fans witnessed what was generally a scrappy game as both teams regularly coughed up the football.
Without the services of Cameron Smith, Ryan Hoffman and Jeremy Smith, Melbourne were always going to need their other big name players to step up and Cooper Cronk did just that in the fourth minute. The diminuitive halfback burst through a yawning gap and then showed brilliant composure to draw Kearney at fullback and stab through a 30m grubber for Steve Turner to collect and dive over in the corner.
After an extremely scrappy opening twenty minutes the score stayed locked at 4-0 as players gave in to their nervous energy. Cooper Cronk handed Melbourne the momentum again when he slid a deceptive short ball for Israel Folau who barged through Blake Green's tackle to score Melbourne's second try.
With the Storm dominating possession Cronulla would have been content going into the halftime break with only a ten point defecit. However, it was not to be for the Sharks as robust forward Adam Blair combined some rare footwork and brute strength to score his first NRL try with five minutes remaining in the half.
Cronulla came out of the sheds at halftime knowing they needed a drastically improved forty minutes but without regular five-eighth Brett Seymour they looked disorganised in attack and despite several opportunities on Melbourne's line they were unable to register points.
It was the reigning-premiers who showed their class with fifteen minutes remaining as Cronk sent Turner burning down the touchline as he stepped inside Kearney to score his second try under the posts.
Both teams were out on their feet in the closing stages of the game and speedster Billy Slater took full opportunity as he burst through for Melbourne to send Matt Geyer over for a fairytale try in his second last game for the Storm. The season is now over for the Cronulla Sharks which means Brett Kimmorley has played his last game for the club whilst frontrower Danny Nutley goes into retirement.
The Storm will be cooling their heels however as they wait until tomorrow night to see who their opponents will be in the Grand Final.
Cronulla Sharks 0 def by Melbourne Storm 28 Finals - Week 3 - September 26th, 2008 7:45pm Venue: Sydney Football Stadium Referee: Tony Archer Touch Judges: Paul Holland & Matt Cecchin Video Referee: Steve Clark Half Time: Storm 16-0
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Hello and welcome to tonight's blockbuster finals clash as the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm compete for a place in the 2008 Grand Final. Cronulla will have somewhat of the home crowd advantage as the teams look forward to a buzzing crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Cronulla are fresh from a week off thanks to Melbourne's shock loss to New Zealand in the first week of the finals and they'll be looking to continue their quest for a first ever premiership. They'll have to do so without five-eighth Brett Seymour who along with Brett Kimmorley has guided the Sharks into this finals position. Melbourne have been biggest hit through injury and suspension as they will have to play tonight without inspirational Captain Cameron Smith and Test backrowers Ryan Hoffman and Jeremy Smith. Melbourne will be looking for their other big name players to lift as they strive for a second successive premiership.
If Melbourne were to lose tonight it would be Matt Geyer's last game for the club as he remains the last-standing foundation member after 11 years with the Storm.
A few team changes for this evening's clash due to suspension and injury.
For Melbourne Cameron Smith is out after losing his appeal to clear a two-game suspension for a grapple tackle. After Sika Manu had been named to start in the backrow following the injury to Ryan Hoffman he has been pushed back to the bench as Antonio Kaufusi will start.
Following these team changes the teams will line-up as such:
SHARKS: 1. Brett Kearney 2. Misi Taulapapa 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. David Simmons 5. Luke Covell 6. Blake Green 7. Brett Kimmorley 8. Ben Ross 9. Isaac De Gois 10. Adam Peek 11. Luke Douglas 12. Fraser Anderson 13. Paul Gallen (c) Interchange: 14. Danny Nutley 15. Brian Norrie 16. Kade Snowden 17. Terrence Seu Seu
STORM: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Steve Turner, 3. Matt Geyer, 4. Israel Folau, 5. Anthony Quinn, 6. Greg Inglis, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jeff Lima, 18. Russell Aitkin 10. Brett White, 11. Michael Crocker, 17. Antonio Kaufusi, 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 12. Sika Manu 14. Aiden Tolman, 15. Adam Blair, 16. Scott Anderson
TOYOTA CUP- Canberra Raiders defeated St George Illawara Dragons 18-14
Players coming onto the field now.
4 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Miracle try to the Storm! Cooper Cronk the architect as he slows up to pass but breaks straight through a yawning gap in the defence. Cronk brilliantly sums up the situation as he draws Kearney at fullback and stabs a raking 30m grubber to the wing and just as the ball looks set to dribble into touch it pops up for Steve Turner who dives over in the corner. What a start for Melbourne! Conversion attempt by Steve Turner unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 4-0
6 min: PENALTY Storm. Kimmorley penalised for interfering with the play the ball and the Storm straight back on the attack with a tap 35m out.
11 min: SCRUM Sharks. Some mis-communication from the Storm leads to a knock-on and Cronulla have a brilliant opportunity 20m out.
12 min: SCRUM Storm. Cronulla throw away possession as Luke Douglas knocks-on cold.
12 min: PENALTY Sharks. Inglis penalised for an obstruction play. Sharks tap 25m out.
16 min: SCRUM Storm. Luke Douglas again knocks-on for Cronulla and Melbourne have a scrum on their 40m line.
18 min: PENALTY Storm. Kimmorley looks to have made a one-on-one strip with Sika Manu but Manu holds on and Kimmorley is then penalised for a second strip. Melbourne tap 20m out.
20 min: SCRUM Sharks. Green and Kimmorley aim up on their line as they force a Michael Crocker knock-on.
21 min: PENALTY Sharks. The Storm relieve some pressure as they are penalised as Cronulla work the ball away from their line.
22 min: PENALTY Storm. With Cronulla throwing the ball around on the Storm's line Nutley throws an intercept to Inglis and Cronulla is then penalised for the following tackle.
24 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Cooper Cronk throws a beautiful deceptive pass for Israel Folau to barge over and score Melbourne's second try. Melbourne shaped for a second-man play but Cronk slipped a short ball to Folau who used his frame break through the tackle of Blake Green to score. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful. Melbourne Storm 10-0
27 min: SCRUM Sharks. Russell Aitkin knocks-on at dummy half and Cronulla are on the attack now.
28 min: Kimmorley kicks across field looking for Covell but Steve Turner leaps high and difuses the situation.
28 min: PENALTY Sharks. The assistant referee comes onto the field and Melbourne are penalised for a grapple tackle where Mark Geyer appears to make contact with the head of Fraser Anderson.
30 min: PENALTY Storm. After Cronulla again knock the ball on cold the Sharks are later penalised and the Storm now work the ball into the Sharks half.
32 min: Taulapapa and De Gois make good runs from dummy half to work the ball out of Cronulla's end but Slater cleans up Kimmorley's grubber with ease.
34 min: Goal-line Dropout Sharks. Taulapapa loses the ball on his own try line and then Quinn slides in with his knees. Taulapapa takes exception and stands up to land a right hook on Quinn's cheek. The referee tells both teams to calm down and he continues with the line dropout.
35 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Adam Blair out of nowhere shows a big left foot step on Cronulla's tryline and the robust frontrower powers his way over for his first NRL try in over 50 games. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful. Melbourne Storm 16-0
38 min: Billy Slater shows great composure to collect a towering bomb in his in-goal and Melbourne have a 20m tap.
39 min: SCRUM Storm. Cronk makes a half-break as he steps through and gets the ball away and as Melbourne try to shift the ball right a Cronulla hand knocks the ball down.
HALFTIME- Melbourne Storm lead the Cronulla Sharks 16-0 The Melbourne Storm have made the most of their opportunities as they lead the Cronulla Sharks 16-0 at the Sydney Football Stadium. It has been an extremely scrappy performance by both teams with Cronulla the main culprits as they have quite possibly turned out their worst half of the season. Cronulla are still very much a chance of winning the match although their forwards will have to control the ball and set the platform for the likes of Kimmorley and De Gois to spark the attack. Cooper Cronk was best on ground in the first half as he laid on the first two tries and controlled the tempo of the game.
41 min: KICKOFF: Back underway as Melbourne ring back the ball through Scott Anderson.
44 min: Kimmorley puts up an improved kick that has Steve Turner under pressure but he takes it well with his back to the defence.
46 min: Goal-line Dropout Storm. This is better stuff from Cronulla as Green chips a kick across field looking for Ben Pomeroy and Folau is tackled in-goal.
47 min: SCRUM Storm. Russell Aitken comes up with a big tackle on Ben Ross and he loses the ball as he brings it back off the dropout.
48 min: Taulapapa collects a Cronk bomb and then jinks and weaves through defenders to turn defence into attack.
48 min: PENALTY Sharks. Cronulla have a tap on Melbourne's 40m line as they look to get on the scoresheet.
50 min: SCRUM Sharks. Scott Anderson loses the ball getting up from the tackle and Cronulla have a scrum 30m from Melbourne's line.
51 min: Goal-line Dropout Sharks. Cronk athletically dives back to ground a Kimmorley grubber in-goal.
52 min: Six-Again Sharks. Kearney ends up with the ball after several players touch it.
53 min: The Melbourne Storm snuff out all Cronulla's attacking chances as they show brilliant scrambling defence on their line. Storm 20m tap.
56 min: Kimmorley makes a half-break to put Cronulla on the attack again. The set finishes with Luke Covell unable to control a cross-field kick as he is ruled to have knocked it dead. Storm 20m tap.
59 min: Cooper Cronk drives a booming 40/20 attempt down field and as Luke Covell attempts to shadow it dead it just sits up putting him under all sorts of pressure. Covell loses the ball as he's driven back into the in-goal and the video referee is checking a possible Storm try.
61 min: PENALTY Sharks. Steve Turner penalised by the video referee for stripping the ball from Covell.
64 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Melbourne wrap the game up as Cronk throws a cut-out pass to Steve Turner who burns past Covell and inside Kearney to score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful. Melbourne Storm 22-0
66 min: SCRUM Storm. Luke Douglas loses the ball again for Cronulla and Melbourne have a scrum 10m from their line.
69 min: Gallen prods a kick in and Slater watches it go dead. Both teams on their last legs here but the Storm have it well and truly wrapped up.
Crowd: 27, 570
71 min: Inglis loses the ball and the Sharks work it out of their half.
74 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Slater breaks straight through the line and unselfishly draws the fullback and passes the ball on to veteran Matt Geyer who scores himself a try under the posts. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful. Melbourne Storm 28-0
77 min: Taulapapa looks to spark something but throws a forward pass to Seu Seu.
78 min: PENALTY Storm. Melbourne with another opportunity as they have a tap 40m from Cronulla's line.
80 min: Covell can't hold a pass on his wing and that should do us for the match tonight.
Full Time- The Melbourne Storm have defeated the Cronulla Sharks 28-0