Even without star halfback Nicho Hynes, Cronulla was too strong for Melbourne as Jesse Ramien scored a hat-trick of tries to lead the Sharks to a 28-6 NRL win at Shark Park.
Hynes and teammate Toby Rudolf were ruled out on Wednesday after testing positive to COVID-19 but their absences mattered little as the Sharks recorded a fourth straight win in front of a 7668-strong crowd on Thursday night.
Stand-in halfback Braydon Trindall was impressive and Andrew Fifita rolled back the years as he started in the front row for the first time in over 12 months.
The victory moves the Sharks level on points with Storm, but they remain in fourth place due to Melbourne’s superior for and against.
Match Highlights – #NRLSharksStorm 🎥
Jesse Ramien crossed for a hat-trick as the Sharks ran in six tries against the Storm! pic.twitter.com/YAbaFNolYd
— NRL (@NRL) July 7, 2022
Melbourne looked shorn of ideas with Cameron Munster and Harry Grant on Queensland duty and their cause wasn’t helped when Brandon Smith was sin-binned for dissent towards referee Adam Gee in the second half.
Craig Bellamy’s side has now suffered consecutive defeats for the second time this season and only a late try to Alec MacDonald prevented it from being held to nil.
In last week’s loss to Manly, Bellamy described Storm’s effort as “soft” and it failed to match Cronulla in the opening stages as the Sharks hit the front foot quickly.
Trindall set up Ramien for his first try after 12 minutes, with Blayke Brailey going over the line a few sets later.
— NRL (@NRL) July 7, 2022
Melbourne didn’t threaten the Sharks and in one period in the first half it had 15 play-the-balls in Cronulla’s 20-metre zone and still couldn’t crack the defence.
Trindall mopped up a couple of speculative grubber kicks to the in-goal and the Sharks were clearly buoyed by how easily they repelled Melbourne’s clunky attack.
Ronaldo Mulitalo scored off the back of a Moylan grubberkick before Ramien added his second try prior to half-time to give the Sharks a 20-0 lead at the break.
Storm lost Grant Anderson to an elbow injury and whenever it had the Sharks under pressure it undid the hard work by conceding penalties.
What happened here?! 😲 Brandon Smith has been BINNED – and he had words with the crowd on the way off! 😳
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) July 7, 2022
One of those was Smith’s outburst towards Gee that earned him 10 minutes on the sidelines, and while the hooker was off Sione Katoa went over in the corner for the Sharks.
Ramien added his third try in the 74th minute before MacDonald crashed over for a consolation try after Fifita had been sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.