Melbourne Storm show first cracks in 2019 campaign after a weird old night in Cronulla

BY CURTIS WOODWARD
@woodward_curtis

The Cronulla Sharks have held on for a victory in Friday night football against the powerhouse Melbourne Storm on a soggy evening in Sydney’s south.

Papers tomorrow will tell a story of Cronulla’s guts with injuries to key personnel. They did outplay the visitors in the 20-18 cliff hanger but was it really a cliff hanger?

The whole thing was a bit weird.

Cronulla rolled into their home ground earlier today expecting an all-out war. What they got was a Storm side completely off their game. The Sharks weren’t good in the first half. A good Melbourne would have put the result out of touch before the break or made it extremely tough for the Sharks to come back.

But it just wasn’t there tonight.

Channel Nine’s Phil Gould might be onto something. It could have just been the Bermuda Triangle. Or it could be the first cracks in the Storm’s seemingly perfect existence.

The first portion of the year always throws up the same predictions.

There’s always one or two sides – usually the grand finalists – so far out in front that nobody is going to catch them. Most people are already pencilling in a Storm versus Sydney Roosters premiership re-match.

By the end of the season, it’s always a different story.

Tonight, Melbourne cracked.

It was strange to watch.

Did the #BigPurpleEasy (yeah I just made that up and hashtagged it), have the flu? A rare night? A one-off? Or was it more than that?

The question now is, when do the Roosters start to wobble?

It was an oddity.

In the first half, Cronulla put a bomb up. Suliasi Vunivalu, one of the best wingers in the world, turned his back on the ball and expected his fullback to take it. Even though his custodian was ten metres away from the Steeden. He lost the ball. In the second half, a cross-field kick went across to Vunivalu and he went up so early, you thought he may have actually been trying to retrieve his mouth guard instead.

For no reason, at another point, Josh Addo-Carr put his foot over the sideline while playing the ball (even though the tough judge got it wrong).

On the last play of the match, to win the game, superstar Cameron Munster backed into the line and took the tackle. Game over. What was that?

“We just expect to do what we plan to do and we’re not doing it at the moment,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said in the press conference post-match.

Bellamy also threatened his current squad that there would be changes if they didn’t start playing like the ‘Storm’ play.

We’re now heading into the middle third of the season.

People can talk about how long the premiership is but coaches break the year down into smaller ‘competitions’. The Storm has been brilliant in the first portion. There are now some worrying signs leading into State of Origin.

This loss may be the one they look back on and pinpoint.

The winners on the other hand, without Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods and Wade Graham, took the two competition points without an error in the second half.

Do the Sharks ever go away?

What a great win.

The best part about new coach John Morris is his trust in the youngsters.

Previous boss Shane Flanagan did his best in his time at the club to try and attract as many veterans to the Shire as much as he could.

Morris has already blooded several rookies.

Cronulla is evolving in front of our eyes.

A really good Storm would have probably won tonight’s game.

But you can only beat what’s in front of you and the Sharks toughed it out. They kicked for the corners, ran hard lines and defended stoutly. That is how you play rugby league.

The Sharks season has swung on a whim.

How quickly it turns in rugby league after they were completely outplayed by the hapless Brisbane Broncos last weekend.

How much do we take out of tonight’s match?

We’ll find out more about these clubs next week.

@woodward_curtis

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