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Tough Sharks grind out NRL win over Storm

NZN 9/04/2017

Cronulla have climbed to third on the NRL ladder after a tense 11-2 victory over the Melbourne Storm at a wet AAMI Park.

The defending premiers relied on tough defence to outlast the Storm in a rematch of the 2016 grand final in the tricky conditions.

The Sharks let an error-prone Melbourne off the hook in the opening half by failing to capitalise on a number of scoring opportunities but finished over the top of the home side with 11 unanswered points in the second half.

James Maloney kicked a field goal in the 70th minute to break a two-all deadlock before James Segeyaro swooped on a kick that was mishandled by Billy Slater to touch down under the posts and seal the result.

The Sharks have now won three straight matches, ending the Storm's unbeaten opening to the season in the process.

Coach Shane Flanagan was pleased to see his side grind out the win in tough conditions.

"We have been looking for that performance for six weeks," Flanagan said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the way the players performed."

"We weren't perfect but it was an outstanding effort."

The visitors handled the slippery conditions better than the hosts in the opening ten minutes with the Storm coughing up possession three times in the Sharks' half.

A Melbourne handling error close to their own line looked to gift the Sharks the opening try but the play was called back for a differential penalty against Cronulla at the scrum.

It took some Cooper Cronk brilliance to set up Melbourne's first scoring opportunity with a 40-20 putting the Storm deep in Sharks territory. A high tackle from James Maloney on Billy Slater subsequently allowed Cameron Smith to kick the opening points of the match.

A Suliasi Vunivalu error near the Storm line handed then handed Cronulla another golden opportunity to score but Jack Bird's final pass to Gerard Beale floated forward with the winger on a clear path to the line.

The Storm made a strong opening to the second half with Slater's long run and a spilt high ball from Valentine Holmes putting the Sharks on the back foot.

Gritty defence from the Sharks held out the home side and another error from the Storm allowed Maloney to level the scores with a penalty goal in the 56th minute.

The Storm pressured the Sharks' line but could not find the target with their kicking game, allowing the Sharks to claim victory in the final ten minutes.

"I just thought we got what we deserved," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

"We built pressure on ourselves and then the last twenty minutes, they built pressure on us. We were just under pressure the whole game."

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