Sharks shock Storm to shake up top-four race
CRONULLA have stopped Melbourne's return to the top of the NRL ladder and helped their own top-four hopes with an enthralling 17-14 victory at AAMI Park.
The Storm were set to leapfrog the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney into the competition lead but remain stalled in third following the upset defeat on Sunday afternoon.
After two losses heading into the round, the win was vital for the Sharks to help secure a double-chance finals berth, pushing them up to sixth.
In a high-quality affair, the Sharks' desperate defence proved the difference, with the Storm held up over the tryline three times and the dying minutes uncannily similar to their 2016 grand final decider.
Melbourne duo Will Chambers and Suliasi Vunivalu combined twice for Storm tries - the last in the 72nd minute - to keep their team in the hunt but they were unable to find another to take the win.
Cronulla had won only once in Melbourne since 2009 but came out with all guns blazing.
Taking advantage of multiple Storm errors hooker Jayden Brailey scooted from dummy-half to dive across in the seventh minute for the opening try.
A superb backhand flick pass from Chambers found winger Vunivalu although Cameron Smith, who had an off day with the boot, was unable to level.
The Sharks extended their lead when winger Sosaia Feki somehow managed to dance down the sideline before flinging a ball back infield for Valentine Holmes.
Fullback Holmes was one of his team's best, also tackling Joe Stimson to prevent a Storm try with 16 minutes left on the clock.
The Sharks led 13-4 at halftime after halfback Chad Townsend added a field goal, which looked as if it could prove valuable in the dying minutes.
Billy Slater, who announced his retirement midweek, helped closed the margin to 13-10 early in the second stanza when he ran on to a Cameron Munster grubber in the in-goal.
But Munster then a threw a loose pass that led to the Sharks' final try. It was scooped up by centre Jesse Ramien and despite being brought down by Josh Addo-Carr after a 60m dash, Cronulla winger Josh Dugan took the ball from dummy-half and burst through some soft defence to help seal the win.
CRONULLA 17 (J Brailey J Dugan V Holmes tries V Holmes 2 goals C Townsend field goal) bt MELBOURNE 14 (S Vunivalu 2 B Slater tries C Smith goal) at AAMI Park. Referee: Ashley Klein, Matt Noyen