The NRL Premiers were successful over the Sharks tonight 14-10, but it wasn’t champagne football as the ugly but determined Sharks side combined with some shocking refereeing to create a frustrating game of Rugby League.
The Cronulla side were full of their usual basic errors and could only manage a solitary try as they tried to claw back the Storms lead.
Melbourne too were full of early season rust, with several errors and failed attacking movements evident – but the absence of Cooper Cronk is no doubt hurting their cause.
With Cameron Smith at halfback, Melbourne didn’t quite have their unstoppable go forward from dummy half – but the brilliance of Billy Slater was again on show, the Australian fullback having some electric returns when he had the ball.
Melbourne weren’t totally dominant in the forwards and only just did enough to win.
Winger Anthony Quinn could find himself in hot water for a raised elbow while carting the ball up, the firey flanker causing a flare up as players streamed in for some push and shove.
Paul Gallen as he usually is, was in the thick of things. The hardworking backrower will seemingly never cut the grubby stuff out of his game – costing his side a string of penalties and at one stage earning the ire of captain Trent Barrett.
Cronulla were gutsy, but still look like they will struggle in 2010. John Morris at hooker looked to be the wrong choice, with specialist rake Paul Aiton not injected until late in the game – and when he came on the Sharks immediately looked to have more strike power.
Luke Covell did a good job tonight, the usually sluggish flanker look to be a yard quicker and had some good involvement for his side.
In a another positive for the Sharks, Nathan Stapleton had a top game at fullback and looks to have earnt his stripes as the fulltime custodian.
Albert Kelly the cousin of Greg Inglis looked a little overawed tonight and Porter at halfback looked to be a little out of his depth as Trent Barrett shouldered a lot of responsiblity. Barrett copping a sinbin as NRL referees Ben Cummins and Brett Suttor went on a penalty rampage – frustrating players and fans alike.
Cummins and Suttor struggled during 2009 and should not be paired together while at this standard, both were extremely below par and didn’t allow the game to flow at all.
So bad it was, the penalties were beating the clock at one stage – averaging a penalty every 2 minutes at one stage.
Sharks coach Ricky Stuart was happy with the effort, but was angry over Barrett’s sin-binning and said he would be seeking an explanation from referees boss Robert Finch over the binning.
â€œIt cost us the game in the end,â€ Stuart said.
â€œThey scored off the next set down the edge where Trent defends.
â€œI just want to know that whatever Trent was sin-binned for, is that going to happen for the next 25 games?