Storm sneak past Sharks in another thriller
There were no fans calling for Cameron Smith's blood.
And there was no Paul Gallen or Will Chambers to trade a war of words - but the intense rivalry between Cronulla and Melbourne still has a pulse.
In a typically torrid clash, Melbourne - the champions they are - rallied from behind on the scoreboard to keep the Sharks winless in 2020.
Scoring one try each, a Storm penalty-goal with four minutes remaining gifted the visitors their victory.
Lamenting his side's ill-disciplined second-half, Sharks coach John Morris described the defeat as "tough to take".
He shook his head at the fact it was the second consecutive week Cronulla had scored the same amount of tries as their opposition after losing by four points to Souths last week.
"We did enough to win the game but couldn't close out the game,'' Morris said.
The loss was made even harder to swallow after captain Wade Graham left the field with an ankle injury in the second half.
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For Melbourne, this was the ultimate hit-and-run heist. Their NRL-organised charter flight was the same plane used by Canberra for their return trip to the Gold Coast.
Their 3pm flight was delayed by an hour out of Melbourne, leaving the Storm to race from Mascot airport to ensure they made kick-off at Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah.
Their return flight departed Sydney 90 minutes after their win.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said the new travel arrangements for interstate matches - designed specifically by the NRL to limit players and officials being exposed to the threat of coronavirus - would prove an ongoing challenge for all clubs.
"It was all a bit different, we're going to have to get better at travelling that way,'' Bellamy said. "It doesn't seem like a big thing, but when players aren't used to it, routine is a big thing.
"It's going to be something we all need to get used to.
"With all that, I'm not sure how we won that game, but perhaps just perseverance.''
Trailing 10-4 with nine minutes remaining, powerful prop Tui Kamikamica scored the try that catapulted his side to the hard-fought victory.
Cronulla were gritty and classy at times, but ultimately ill-discipline cost them dearly.
In the final 40 minutes they missed 18 tackles and lost the penalties 6-2.
As ordinary as they were with a 65 per cent completion rate in the opening 40 minutes, Melbourne's goal line defence was the overriding factor as to how they weren't down by 18 points at halftime.
On at least five occasions, a Cronulla player was pulled back within centimetres of the try line by purple jerseys.
"Our defence on our try line was outstanding and it had to be with a lot of pressure there,'' Bellamy said.
"We lost our grip on the game in the first half, but we improved our completions in the second half and played a bit more patient.''
Before the season, Cronulla coach John Morris was vocal about pinning the Shire club's future on a host of young guns including Blayke Brailey, Billy Magoulias and Will Kennedy.
The trio gave a stunning glimpse of what lies ahead for the boys in the black, white and blue.
Running for over 120m, Will, the son of former Balmain flyer William "Bubba" Kennedy, was safe at the back and a constant spark for the Sharks' attack.
It was his incision that provided Brailey with the field position to feather a beautiful kick from dummy-half for Magoulias to score his first NRL try.
"I'm really pleased with the youth in this side - we had seven or eight guys under the age of 23 out there,'' Morris said.
"We just have to learn from tonight.''
Originally published as: Storm sneak past Sharks in another thriller