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Cronulla ends drought after 50 years, wins NRL premiership

Associated Press Associated Press 2/10/2016

SYDNEY — Cronulla ended one of the longest droughts in Australian sport, holding off Melbourne Storm 14-12 on Sunday to win its first premiership in the country's top-flight rugby league competition.

The breakthrough NRL title came two years after 12 current or former Cronulla players accepted shortened, backdated bans for illegal supplement use, when the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) ruled that the club operated a program in 2011 under which players were administered injections, pills and creams that contained banned peptides or growth hormones.

The supplements scandal that rocked Australian sport didn't distract the Cronulla team of 2016, which held firm to give the club its first title since entering the top-flight competition in 1967.

Cronulla took an 8-0 lead to halftime after a penalty from James Maloney and a try in the 14th minute to fullback Ben Barba from a scrum-base move close to the line.

Melbourne hit back in the 50th minute when Jesse Bromwich dragged three tacklers over from close range and grounded beside the posts, giving skipper Cameron Smith an easy conversion to reduce the margin to 8-6.

Center Will Chambers gave Melbourne the lead in the 64th with a powerful solo try after the Storm started finding room on the fringes of the rucks and exploiting a fatiguing Cronulla defense.

But a string of penalties gave Cronulla field position and a moment of poor Melbourne discipline in the fifth tackle of a defensive set put the Sharks in position to pounce, and big prop Andrew Fifita made the most of it when he rolled through and over four defenders to score under the posts to make it 12-12.

Maloney converted to give Cronulla a 14-12 lead with 10 minutes to go and the Sharks defended against a series of desperate Melbourne attacks that didn't end until the full-time siren.

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