The Cronulla Sharks have finally broken their premiership drought in the 2016 NRL grand final, defeating the Melbourne Storm in an epic match at ANZ Stadium by two points.
All the wash-up from the NRL grand final:
» LORD: Gallen leads Sharks into history books
» PRICHARD: 13 extra seconds, but the Sharks did it
» Five talking points
» Ten best tweets from the match
» Sharks player ratings
» Storm player ratings
» Re-live the match with our live blog
The Sharks dominated for the most part of the contest, but struggled to run away with the lead thanks in part to some brilliant defence from the Storm, who made more than 430 tackles throughout the contest.
The defence took it right out of the Storm though and they struggled to get into the game. Their forwards were thoroughly outplayed, and it made it hard for their creative geniuses who have been there and done that so many times before, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk to control the match.
Smith himself made a massive 74 tackles, and was almost at 40 by the time the halftime break rolled around.
Full credit must go to the Sharks forwards who dominated the match, and a lesser opponent would have conceded a lot of points – however, the Sharks did ruin a number of opportunities, especially in the first half.
Despite the Sharks having 56 per cent possession, the difference at the end of the game was a mere penalty goal which happened to be the opening points of the game.
Ben Barba then got the try scoring going, crossing on the right-hand side off a scrum base play that saw Gallen lock the scrum, and then pass inside back through the scrum for Barba to score.
As it turned out, that would be the end of the scoring for the first half as the Sharks went into the sheds with an eight-point lead, which didn’t seem to be nearly enough given the amount of possession they had.
Andrew Fifita, in both halves but particularly the first set the ball rolling for the Sharks who ensured the game would not be slowed down by wrestle, and played at a cracking pace by coming out of the gates with an incredible intensity, and another step up on what they produced in the preliminary final against the North Queensland Cowboys.
It was hard to see a way back for the Storm at the halftime interval, and even more so on the other side when they struggled to get into the contest directly after.
Cooper Cronk was struggling to land a kick, and their attack had no flow or rhythm to it, as they searched for fast points.
Things looked as if they were starting to turn for the Sharks, with a few injuries to Siosaia Feki, Matt Prior and Jason Bukuya but they hung in gallantly until they could return to a full squad.
Melbourne began to look more like themselves though, and finally got onto the scoreboard when Jesse Bromwich turned nothing into something, crashing through the defence off a Cameron Smith short ball.
After some more back and forth play, it would be Will Chambers to score out wide off some ad-lib play with just 16 minutes to go, putting the Storm up by four.
The Sharks slowly started to turn things back around though, and Andrew Fifita crossed for a try 11 minutes from the bell through some soft defence under the goalposts.
The final ten minutes saw a little bit of everything, with the Sharks struggling to close things out and the Storm hanging in.
Right until the final play of the game they never gave up, as the ball travelled through at least 25 passes, from right to left and back to the right before Marika Koroibete in his final game for Melbourne was taken just five metres from the line.
The Sharks then, finally break their premiership drought after 50 years and send Michael Ennis out a winner as the party begins in the Shire.
Melbourne Storm 12
Cronulla Sharks 14
Clive Churchill Medal: Luke Lewis
Tries: Storm (2), Sharks (2)
Conversions: Storm (2/2), Sharks (2/2)
Penalty goals: Storm (0/0), Sharks (1/1)
Possession: Storm (44%), Sharks (56%)
Completions: Storm (30/34), Sharks (36/40)
All runs: Storm (177), Sharks (203)
All run metres: Storm (1539), Sharks (1864)
Line breaks: Storm (3), Sharks (4)
Offloads: Storm (12), Sharks (3)
Tackles: Storm (436), Sharks (312)
Missed tackles: Storm (25), Sharks (39)
Penalties: Storm (3), Sharks (5)
Errors: Storm (6), Sharks (5)
The Roar’s NRL Finals MVP
3 – Andrew Fifita
2 – Ben Barba
1 – Luke Lewis