Storm effort halted by Sharks
Melbourne Storm have suffered their first loss of the 2016 season, falling short against Cronulla 14-6 on Monday night.
The contest remained tough and physical for its entirity with players from both sides out on their feet by the end of the 80 minutes.
Felise Kaufusi scored Melbourne's only try of the night and came up with several big tackles in defence while Cameron Munster was again solid at fullback.
Storm could not be faulted for their effort but were unable to fire in attack as they were starved of possession for much of the game.
It was a rampant start by Cronulla who had Storm on the back foot from the outset.
The home crowd were on their feet early when Valentine Holmes intercepted a pass on his own 10m line to break clear on six minutes.
Holmes set off down the field before being mowed down by Will Chambers however the Storm centre was penalised for hindering the Sharks play-the-ball and subsequently sin binned.
Rather than cave to the numerical advantage Melbourne appeared to embrace it and began to settle into the contest with plenty of good ball.
That hard work was duly rewarded when Blake Green played a perfectly waited pass to Felise Kaufusi who crossed for the game's first try.
The Sharks then hit back on 28 minutes when James Maloney found Ben Barba bursting through the Storm line on halfway before running on and score. A missed conversion left Storm clinging to a 6-4 halftime lead.
Cronulla had their first half chances, especially through Holmes who twice dropped the ball when presented with a clear path to the try line.
To his credit, the Sharks winger bounced back to help his side into the lead shortly after the restart. He broke through the middle of the ground and passed to Chad Townsend on halfway to send the former Warrior 50m down the field for a 10-6 lead.
A 47th minute penalty goal to the Sharks saw them move clear by a converted try, increasing the challenge in front of Craig Bellamy's men.
The pressure continued to mount as the football remained entirely at Storm's defensive end for the next nines minutes, forcing them to make three goal-line drop outs.
Melbourne's task became greater on 62 minutes when another Maloney penalty kick extended the margin to eight.
The effort never wavered for Storm but little time in possession made the task of bridging the gap simply too great.
Storm will now face a short turnaround before hosting the Knights this Saturday afternoon at AAMI Park.
Melbourne Storm 6
Tries: Felise Kaufusi
Goals: Cameron Smith
Cronulla Sharks 14
Tries: Ben Barba, Chad Townsend
Goals: James Maloney 3