The Melbourne Storm celebrated Cameron Smith’s milestone 400th NRL game with a 40-16 win over the Sharks in a game in which the final scoreline failed to represent the difference between the two sides.
The 24-point margin may have seemed to indicate a dominant Melbourne win, however the Sharks had a try disallowed at the mid way mark of the second half, a four-pointer which if allowed would have put the Cronulla side in front.
Deflated from the controversial no-try ruling and down on troops with Josh Dugan sidelined with a hamstring complaint and Josh Morris off the field with a badly broken nose, the Storm scored late four tries to finish the match and claim the all-important competition points.
It was the fourth consecutive defeat for a Sharks side that has dropped out of the top eight and who now head to New Zealand to play a must-win game against the Warriors next Friday afternoon.
It was a fired-up Storm outfit who managed to register first points in just the fourth minute of the game, fullback Jahrome Hughes putting in a perfectly weighted grubber kick for Cameron Munster to score.
A penalty goal to Smith made it 8-0 to the home side, but it would be the Sharks to score next, a well worked move seeing ball go through the hands, eventually to Shaun Johnson who put Bronson Xerri into space, with the youngster sending Aaron Gray over in the corner.
Johnson hit the upright with his sideline conversion attempt but the Sharks were back in the contest at 6-4 down after 13 minutes.
From that point in the first period the Sharks were their own worst enemies, poor ball control coming out of their defensive end gifting Melbourne field position and two Smith penalty goals, both adjacent to the posts, pushed their lead out to 12-4.
Dugan was forced from the field with a hamstring problem, with Morris switching to fullback, making life somewhat difficult for the Sharks but they held firm during they next 15 minutes of the game.
Just as the Sharks appeared to be holding firm they were made to pay for another mistake, Brandon Smith crashing through some tiring Cronulla defence to cross for his teams second four-pointer of the night.
The Melbourne skipper kicked his fifth goal in converting the try and the Storm would take an 18-4 lead to the break.
The Sharks defused a dangerous situation at one end early in the second period and were rewarded at the other, a Chad Townsend off load to Johnson, on to Briton Nikora, who threw an over-head pass to Kurt Capewell, the back rower come centre touching down for his teams second try.
From near touch Johnson was successful with his kick at goal and all of a sudden the Sharks had a spring in their step at 18-10 down.
With renewed confidence and energy and on the back of an outstanding Townsend kick the Sharks pressed again soon after and again they broke their opponents line, Johnson using his speed and footwork to score and when he managed to convert from a wide angle it was game on at 18-16.
Still on the front foot the Sharks moved into an attacking position once more and exploiting an overlap good hands from Nikora seemed to have sent Feki over in the corner, however the pass was ruled forward and the try denied.
From there it was all the Storm, Smith and his Melbourne side regaining their composure, a Brodie Croft try from the first play from a scrum breaking the Sharks spirit as the home team went on with the job in the later stages of the contest.
Despite the margin of defeat the Sharks had a number of players who could had their heads high in the losing effort, particularly halves Johnson and Townsend, Gray on the left wing in what was perhaps his best performance in the top grade, Braden Hamlin-Uele had an impact and played big minutes due to the injury toll, while Xerri and Capewell had their moments out wide.
The Sharks dressing room resembled a hospital ward after the game, with coach John Morris having to patch together a side to take on the Warriors in Wellington next weekend.
Aaron Gray, Kurt Capewell, Shaun Johnson tries, Shaun Johnson 2 goals
Brandon Smith 2, Cameron Munster,, Brodie Croft, Josh Addo-Carr, Joe Stimson tries, Cameron Smith 8 goals
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