Melbourne have delivered a fitting celebration for skipper Cameron Smith’s 400-game milestone with a thumping 40-16 NRL win over Cronulla at AAMI Park.
The competition leaders survived a second-half stumble on Saturday night when the Sharks fought back to within two points before the Storm piled on a further four tries to secure victory.
It was sweet revenge as the Sharks were the last team to beat Melbourne in round eight.
The party started early, with a light show and tributes from former teammates Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, before Smith – wearing custom-made gold boots – ran on to the field.
Five-eighth Cameron Munster kept the crowd on their feet as he opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he ran onto Jahrome Hughes grubber into the in-goal.
The Sharks settled with winger Aaron Gray, part of a reshuffle after Matt Moylan’s withdrawal, scoring in the 11th minute via a sweeping backline move.
The remainder of the first half was all Storm as they took advantage of some sloppy Sharks handling and discipline to charge to an 18-4 lead.
Cronulla’s cause wasn’t helped with Josh Dugan limping off from fullback with a hamstring injury.
But Melbourne looked like they’d popped the cork too early, with the Sharks on the hunt early in the second stanza.
Tries to Kurt Capewell and Shaun Johnson in four minutes pulled the visitors back to trail only 18-16 before Smith gathered his troops into a huddle.
His words hit home with Melbourne regrouping and crossing twice in four minutes – through Brodie Croft and Justin Olam – to skip away unchallenged and ensure Smith’s record night ended in style.