Cronulla Sharks Clock 1st Ever NRL Premiership Against Melbourne Storm

It’s already been a fairly decent weekend for Melbourne footy teams, but the NRL Grand Final kinda switched that game’s underdog narrative. 
Tonight, the Melbourne Storm entered the fray against the Cronulla Sharks as slight favourites. The purple-clad toughnuts came into the ANZ Stadium with two premierships to their name in an 18-year history. 
By contrast, the lads in black, blue and white rocked up to tonight’s big dance without a premiership flag to their name, and just a coupla seasons after finishing rock bottom of the comp. 
That’s all history though, ’cause they walked out 12 – 14 winners. 

The pair ain’t exactly all-time rivals, but a fiesty clash in the opening minutes set the tone for the match. A bit of a high clobber ’round the shoulder of Shark Chad Townsend resulted in the opening two points for the local squad. 

A quick break for the Sharks ended oh-so-close to a try, but Ben Barba popped out of the resulting scrum to slot the first one home for the night. The conversion was bloody perfect. 0 – 8 to Cronulla, 16 minutes in.

It wasn’t an entirely perfect start for the Sydney squad, though. Centre Jack Bird copped an ungodly twist to his elbow, seemingly bending it the wrong way a full 45 degrees, but somehow managed to stay on the pitch. 

The following minutes were apparently just as flexible as his arm. Possession slammed between both ends of the pitch without much of a result in an utterly brutal passage of play until seemingly outta nowhere, some silky Sharks play resulted in pretty narrow knock-on call with five minutes in the half.
With the seconds ticking down, the Cronulla outfit seemingly stepped up. Still, their flourishing attack was stamped out by Melbourne, closing out the period with that very same scoreline. 

That ferocity continued in the second half, with the Sharks asking serious questions near the try-line for the opening four minutes. FWIW, those questions were answered with an above-horizontal tackle on Sosoaia Feki, who was put out of commission.

That continual pressure then manifested as a scrappy try for Melbourne out of thin air. By thin air, of course, we mean a utter stacks-on of Sharks. It was Jesse Bromwich who kept the ball down, and talismanic captain Cameron Smith who converted. 6 – 8 in the 51st minute, 

Things got worse for the Sharks from there. Jayson Bukuya landed a knee to the head from a charging Tohu Harris, marking the third significant injury to the squad. Some charging metres were nullified by an ascendant Melbourne defensive unit. 
Then, just as the Storm managed to penetrate the high-line pressure from Cronulla, an incisive zig-zag run from William Chambers put Melbourne in the lead. The skipper converted. 12 – 8 in the 65th.

Cameron Welch came storming into a tackle on Chad Townsend that was just too damn high. The resulting set ended in a goddamn gutsy try for Sharks’ big man Andrew Fifita. Herculean. The kick was good. Sharks up 12 – 14, with just less than ten minutes to go.

A flurry of Melbourne activity which could so easily (well, “easily”) have been a try came to nought by an errant kick. The Sharks capitalised. They held off a final, frantic Melbourne unit. 

And that was it. In their 50th season, Cronulla did it. How’s that for another drought-breaking final?

Source: NRL.
Photo: Ryan Pierse / Getty.