The Cronulla Sharks have scored a 14-points-to-6 win over the Melbourne Storm at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks revived their second-half hopes having trailed by two at the break, lead by a stirring performance by fullback Ben Barba in front of 9,155 Members and fans.
Barba proved the hero in both attack and defence, in showing signs of his brilliant best both with and without the ball in hand.
The Sharks got the early jump on the Storm as the side shot out of the gates, in putting together repeat sets of six and asking plenty of questions of the visitors’ defence early.
Will Chambers would be sent to the sin bin for holding before the turn of the tenth minute, and the Sharks would be given the advantage of an extra man.
Unable to capitalise on added number though, Melbourne would be the first to cross for points, thanks to interchange forward Felise Kaufusi who crashed across to score the night’s first try.
Experienced hooker Cameron Smith would make no mistake from the tee, in extending his side’s lead – against all of the run of play – to six points after 22 minutes.
The visitors would continue to knock on the door, but the Sharks had muscled up to turn them away; with half Chad Townsend producing some inspiring defence on the line to earn his side possession.
Soon after, his halves partner James Maloney would ignite the Cronulla attack, with fullback Barba finishing a well-worked move to score his second try in as many games at Southern Cross Group Stadium this season.
Maloney, looking to convert from the Eastern touchline, wasn’t able to raise the flags as the score remained at 6-points-to-4 in favour of the men in purple.
The Sharks had a host of chances to assert themselves on the contest and to take a lead into half time, but unable to hold on to the final pass or kick, the Storm would take with them a 2-point lead back into the sheds.
With Coach Flanagan’s half time words reverberating in their ears, the Sharks took to the field looking a different team at the change of ends.
Playing a more expansive, attacking brand of footy, the side didn’t have to wait long for second half points when Townsend crossed in the 42nd minute.
Townsend’s try came off the back of a Valentine Holmes bust, with the ever-present half on hand to scoot the remaining 40 metres to score.
Maloney added the extra two from in front, as the Sharks went to a 10-6 lead after five minutes played in the second period.
In a second period where the sides traded blows between the 20 metre lines, the hosts would extend their lead to eight points, as Maloney opted to kick for goal from penalties on two separate occasions.
Up 14-6 with a quarter of an hour to play, the Storm would not die wondering. Although with the timepiece against them, the Melbourne side continued to throw all they had at the Sharks defence.
The Storm had look to have salvaged a late try through Marika Koroibete, who broke the Sharks line in the 74th minute – only for Barba to deny the speedster with a last-ditch cover effort.
Barba’s try-saver was enough to seal the Sharks fate, as the side ran out 14 points to 6 victors having held the visitors scoreless in the second period.
CRONULLA SHARKS 14 –
(TRIES: Barba, Townsend | GOALS: Maloney (Conv. 1/2, Pen. 2/2))
Def. MELBOURNE STORM 6 –
(TRIES: Kaufusi | GOALS: Smith (1/1))