Premiers go on a feeding frenzy against the Sharks in a lop-sided NRL clash.
The Cronulla Sharks four game winning streak has come to a shuddering halt after they were outplayed and outclassed by the Melbourne Storm 38-6.
After a month of football where the Storm did not look their usual clinical selves, they showed they are still a force to be reckoned with on their day.
Melbourne ran in seven tries to one as they jumped out to an early lead which they never let go, giving skipper Cameron Smith a happy memory from his 250th NRL game.
Storm five-eighth Gareth Widdop said the side’s non-State of Origin players knew they had to work hard despite having last weekend off.
“The Origin boys have had a few tough weeks and the rest of the boys had to step up and we managed to do that,” Widdop said
“Everybody know what Smithy has done for rugby league so it was really fitting for us to go out there and get the win tonight.
“We trained really well in the week off so it was really good for us to come out and play the way we did tonight.”
Cronulla halfback Jeff Robson, who signed a new two-year deal with the club mid-week, could offer up no excuses for his side’s performance.
“They rolled through our ruck pretty well, we were able to compete with them for a little bit but then we’d make a silly error or give away a penalty, and you just can’t do that against Melbourne,” Robson said.
“Next week (against Parramatta) is a very important game for us leading into the bye so we need to turn things around quickly
The Storm started quickly as a Cooper Cronk 40/20 in the 8th minute saw Melbourne the ball down their short-side before the play swept back to the left allowing Maurice Blair to stroll through a gap.
Cameron Smith added the conversions and the Storm had an important early lead in the see-sawing battle.
The sluggishness the Storm has shown in recent weeks in attack was nowhere to be seen, as the premiers looked sharp after much of the side had the week off last round due to the bye.
Michael Gordon dropped a bomb by the Storm, and in the next set of six Ryan Hoffman stormed across the line to make it 12-0.
Back-to-back penalties to the Sharks them them pepper the Storm line but the visitors come up short
in what was their best chance to score in game so far.
Melbourne again scored off the back of another Sharks’ mistake from a kick, as Kevin Procter cleaned up a knock-on to scurry over as Smith converted against to stretch the lead to 18.
Crounlla’s kicking game had been lacking early in the game, and as a result, the Storm were able to relieve any pressure put on them by the visitors.
Yet again a mistake off the back of a kick saw the Storm crash over through Tohu Harris, with Cronk setting up the try as he picked up the ball and passed while falling in one motion.
Smith’s boot again was accurate as the home side were cruising at 24-0 with eight minutes left before the Sharks could recover during half-time.
A soft try to Widdop saw him slice through the line as the Storm ran rampant in one of the most impressive halves of the season by any team.
Smith missed his first kick for the night when he had to retake his effort after a seagull put him off in what proved to be a comical moment for the Storm skipper.
“It’s hard to sit on the bench today the boys are not playing really well,” Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said at half-time,
“The Storm are doing the simple things better, they are running harder and tackling harder and they are kicking better than us.
“We never give up and if we can do the simple things right we should be able to get back into the game.”
Again the Sharks’ kicking game continued to be woeful as the wrong decisions continue to be taken, allowing the Storm back three to take the pressure off their side.
Widdop pulled off a sensational individual play as he took on the line and put a kick through as he was being tackled, allowing Justin O’Neill to score in his 50th NRL game.
The try sealed the win for Storm despite there being 23 minutes left in the game as the lead became 32-0.
Melbourne scored off the restart when Blair busted through some weak defence by the Sharks, with Billy Slater backing up on the inside as the game became a blow-out.
After 77 minutes the Sharks finally crossed after a long pass from Carney found Beau Ryan, in what was the ultimate consolation try as the score became 38-6.
The Storm will look to keep up their excellent form when they host the Newcastle Knights at AAMI Stadium, while the Sharks will be desperate for their seventh win of the year when they host the Eels.