The Melbourne Storm have secured a Round 26 win over the Sharks – and the 2016 NRL Minor Premiership – with a 26 points to 6 victory at AAMI Park.
Reduced to just 15 men for the second half as Chris Heighington and Joseph Paulo succumbed to injury, a gallant effort from the Sharks was not enough, as the Melbourne outfit found their way to the 20-point win.
In a tight, grinding first period, it was the Sharks who would earn the first chance to post points when the Storm were deemed to have infringed.
Building pressure from repeat sets of six, the Sharks would again be on the right side of the referee’s whistle, and James Maloney opted to kick for goal for the night’s first points.
The penalty goal sent the Sharks out by 2 – though not for long – as Storm Captain Cameron Smith levelled the ledger with a penalty shot of his own.
With the scoreboard level at two, the Storm would work the ball back into the Sharks’ half, and would make the visitors pay as Cheyse Blair crossed for the game’s first try.
Blair finished a well-worked Storm shift to score, with Smith adding the two to extend the Melbourne lead to six.
A margin of six soon became eight when Smith again pointed to the posts from a penalty, as the Storm went out to a 10-2 front.
With the half time siren within earshot, the Sharks had one dash at the Storm – but again the Melbourne defence proved up to the task.
A side-to-side shift had almost brought the Storm undone, though Marika Koroibete’s clutch tackle on what looked a certain try denied the side points.
At the change of ends, the Storm came firing out of the blocks and extended their lead further when Blair crossed for his second.
Smith again converted, taking the hosts out by 14.
Though trailing by more than two converted tries, the Sharks were far from out of the contest, and looked likely to get back into the game as Sosaia Feki went over the line.
Again, Melbourne’s last-ditch effort proved enough to prevent the Sharks from scoring, with Feki ruled to have lost the ball in-goal.
Buoyed by their efforts without the ball in hand, the Storm returned serve with possession as Suliasi Vunuvalu went in for his 22nd try of the season.
The high-flying winger collected a loose ball in the Sharks in-goal from a kick.
Smith made his first blemish with the boot, and the Storm remained three converted tries to the good at 20-2.
Gerard Beale breathed life back into the Sharks hopes when he sliced through in the 71st minute, though Maloney’s failed shot on goal would see the margin remain outside of two converted tries.
With time ticking away and the the result all-but a formality, a barnstorming run from Storm front rower Jesse Bromwich saw the Storm score their fourth.
Smith converted, sending the Storm out by 26 points to 6 – and so it would remain at the end of the 80 minutes.