NRL Premiership - Round 26 - Melbourne Storm V Cronulla Sharks - 3 September 2016 - AAMI Park, Melbourne, Vic - Ian Knight

1. Captain Gallen again leads from the front 

Again at his inspirational best, Sharks Captain Paul Gallen churned out big numbers – in big minutes – to set the Sharks on the front foot.

Running for close to 200 metres, making 41 tackles and offloading on three occasions, Gallen again showed his importance in the side’s middle third.

 

2. 15-man Sharks not overwhelmed

Injuries to Chris Heighington and Joseph Paulo in the first period would mean the Sharks were reduced to just 15 men for the remainder of the match, but the side didn’t look flustered by the big Storm opposition.

Along with Gallen, fellow forwards Matt Prior and Andrew Fifita rose to the task, doing their utmost in limiting the impact of the Melbourne pack.

 

3. First half chances just didn’t fall to hand

Creating plenty of chances in the first period, the Sharks’ half time deficit of 10-2 could have been so very different had the final pass gone to hand on several occasions.

Though such would be the tenacity of the Storm defence, the Sharks were pressured into errors at key moments, as the Melbourne side commanded the momentum heading into the sheds.

 

4. Melbourne completion rate paves the way for a win 

Completing 33 of 36 sets of possession, the Melbourne outfit suffocated the Sharks, and went on to finish the job in typical Storm fashion.

Instrumental in their side’s successes, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith controlled the tempo of the clash – kicking deep and into corners, forcing the Sharks to retrieve the ball from inside their own 20m for much of the match.



5. Where, not who, the NRL finals question

The Round 26 defeat to the Storm now means the Sharks will play the Canberra Raiders in week 1 of the NRL Finals.

Currently sitting second on the NRL ladder, the Sharks could fall to third – and face a trip to Canberra – so should the Raiders topple the Tigers at Leichardt on Sunday afternoon.

If the Tigers can down the Raiders, not only will they seal a place in the Top 8 themselves, but also book an Allianz Stadium matchup for the Sharks and Canberra next weekend.