Melbourne has shown they’re still a force to be reckoned with the 2008 NRL premiership, showing remarkable determination to shut out the Sharks 28-nil tonight at the Sydney Football Stadium, moving into their third straight Grand Final.
A battered and bruised Storm outfit condemned the Sharks to another year of premiership oblivion, on the back of a virtuoso performance from stand-in skipper Cooper Cronk, who firmly stamped himself as a future leader of the club.
It took the diminutive half just four minutes to put his stamp on the game.
Cronk sliced open some flimsy Sharks defence open inside his own half, before providing a precision kick to the corner for Steve Turner to open the scoring in the fourth minute.
The occasion clearly got to the Sharks, and if their first half effort wasn’t their worst of the season, it was certainly in the semi-finals.
The Sharks coughed up plenty of cheap ball, and Cronk continued at his scheming best, delivering a crisp short ball for Israel Folau to crash over in the 24th minute.
Turner was on the money with the conversion attempt, and the Storm were up by ten.
Frustrations boiled over late in the half when Misi Taulapapa lashed out at a shoulder hit from Anthony Quinn, but the Storm kept their minds on football, and continued to put the Sharks to the sword.
Adam Blair forced his way over for Melbourne’s third try in the 35th minute, and when Turner slotted the extras to make it 16-nil, the Storm had one foot in the grand final.
The only negative to come out of a stunning first half, is that judiciary may again be looming.
Brett White was placed on report for a forearm to the head of Ben Ross, Matt Geyer also incurring the wrath of referee Tony Archer for a grapple tackle on Fraser Anderson, and Cronk was involved in a lifting tackle.
The Sharks needed to score first in the second half to be any chance, but couldn’t crack a determined Melbourne defensive line, despite a glut of possession.
The Storm iced the contest in the 65th minute, and again it was Cronk who initiated the attack.
The Melbourne half delivered a sharp second man ball for Billy Slater, and he in turn found Turner, who stood up Kearney pointlessly to grab his second.
The fleet-footed winger comfortably added the extras, giving the reigning premiers a 22-nil advantage.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Slater carved through some more paper-thin Sharks defence in the 74th minute, before linking up with Matt Geyer to ice a memorable victory.
MELBOURNE 28 (S Turner 2 A Blair I Folau M Geyer tries S Turner 4 goals) bt CRONULLA 0 at Sydney Football Stadium. Referee: T Archer. Crowd: 27,570.