Melbourne captain Cameron Smith kicked a late penalty goal to snatch a 12-10 win over a brave Sharks outfit at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium after his Sharks counter-part Wade Graham limped from the field with a foot injury.
The Sharks led 10-4 when Graham was forced from the field in the 67th minute after interchange forward Billy Magoulias had scored the first try of the game midway through the second half but they couldn’t hang on without their inspirational skipper.
Poor discipline in the dying stages of the match cost Cronulla dearly, with the home team conceding five penalties and making four errors in the 19 minutes after five-eighth Shaun Johnson converted Magoulias’s try.
Storm prop Tui Kamikamica charged over off a Smith dummy-half pass to level the scores after a penalty near the Cronulla line and the Storm skipper kicked the simplest of penalty goals following a 76th minute strip by William Kennedy.
Earlier, Smith ignored some light-hearted sledging as he lined up a seventh minute penalty goal that opened the scoring after a dangerous tackle by Cronulla lock Jack Williams, with a Sharks player calling out: “Your shoelaces are undone, Smithy”.
Match: Sharks v Storm
Round 2 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
However, neither team was in the mood to take prisoners as heavy defence produced a high error rate and the match developed into an arm wrestle.
Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson showed the benefit of some extra goal-kicking practice after he remained on the field while both teams were in the dressing room at the conclusion of their warm-ups when he landed a 35-metre penalty goal in the 13th minute.
Another Johnson penalty goal in the 22nd minute was the only other score of an opening 40 minutes that featured 13 errors and nine penalties.
The Sharks dominated field position but couldn’t breach the Storm defence, with Johnson missing his injured right-edge partner Briton Nikora as replacement second-rower Scott Sorensen worked hard but doesn’t run the same angles as the Kiwi international.
An animated Andrew Fifita spent much of the latter stages of the first half on his feet yelling encouragement or directions from the interchange bench as Cronulla hung on to their 4-2 lead until the interval.
Daryl Braithwaite had been booked to perform at halftime before the NRL was forced to play in closed stadiums but his hit song Horses blasted around the ground during the break anyway
Smith levelled the scores at 4-4 in the 47th minute after Sharks interchange prop Toby Rudolf was penalised for a hand in the ruck but Cronulla’s adventurous attacking play eventually paid dividends when Magoulias scored the first try of the game 20 minutes from full-time.
Magoulias scores his first try in the NRL
Magoulias pounced on a Blayke Brailey grubber from dummy half after Sharks fullback Kennedy had been pulled down just short of the try line following a midfield break.
Johnson converted to put Cronulla ahead 10-4 but their lead was short-lived after Storm prop Kamikamica crashed over from close range in the 70th minute following a penalty against Chad Townsend for a high shot on Justin Olam.
Another penalty against Kennedy for a strip enabled Smith to land the match-winning penalty goal and for the second week in a row the Sharks crashed to a narrow loss.