Storm hold on to sink Sharks


Melbourne Storm clung on to consolidate top spot on the NRL ladder with an 18-13 win at second-place Cronulla Sharks.

Felise Kaufusi's double was enough for the Storm as they gained a measure of revenge for last season's Grand Final defeat and the Sharks' round-six victory over them this season.

Cooper Cronk was absent for Melbourne after his State of Origin exertions, but Billy Slater stepped up to play a leading role in a late Storm revival after a James Maloney drop goal had looked like setting up victory for the hosts at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

The Sharks had come from behind to win at AAMI Park earlier in the season and Storm once again seized the initiative as Kaufusi barrelled over after Cameron Smith's early 40-20, before Tim Glasby added another touchdown in the eighth minute - Smith converting both tries.

Kaufusi saw another score ruled out from the bunker as Cronulla creaked under pressure, and Slater saved a certain Sharks try beyond the whitewash to compound the Storm's dominance, but the full-back erred to allow Maloney to race up the other end and Luke Lewis got the hosts on the board with an opportunistic score.

The Sharks raced out of the blocks in the second half and Sosaia Feki was on the end of a move that swung out to the left before going over, but Maloney missed the conversion.

Josh Addo-Carr knocked on before touching down for Melbourne and the Sharks made the most of that let-off as Maloney slotted a penalty before the Storm's Cameron Munster missed from the tee and Maloney split the posts from hand to give Sharks huge momentum.

But Melbourne had one last play left in them, with Slater brilliantly drawing two defenders before releasing Kaufusi for his second score of the game, which would prove to be pivotal.

The hosts pushed back and went close to scoring after the hooter when Maloney picked out Feki on the left flank but his kick just arced too long and fell dead to prompt the end of a breathless encounter.

Victory takes Melbourne four points clear of their opponents, who are now looking over their shoulders at the third-placed St. George Illawarra Dragons.