14 Mar 2010

Storm look rusty in first NRL game of season but still do enough to win

6:43 am on 14 March 2010

The Melbourne Storm launched an effective if unspectacular defence of their NRL premiership by overcoming a committed Cronulla side 14-10 at Toyota Park.

Just as they did against Leeds in winning the World Club Challenge earlier this month, the Storm looked a long way from the well-oiled machine which won last year's title, with the absence of injured halfback Cooper Cronk particularly noticeable.

The Storm scored tries either side of the halftime break to Greg Inglis and former Shark Luke MacDougall.

The double touchdowns were more than enough for a Sharks side which only came into the game late when Luke Douglas barged over from short range nine minutes from time following some clever work from new hooker Paul Aiton.

The 11,820 strong crowd tried their best to lift the home side, but their last throw of the dice ended with debutant Albert Kelly - who was playing against older cousin Inglis - kicking the ball straight to the opposition from a scrum win.

Cronulla's cause wasn't helped by their own ill-discipline, with Inglis' 35th minute try coming moments after skipper Trent Barrett was sinbinned for one ruck indiscretion too many, that penalty one of 20 blown throughout a game which failed to find any rhythm.

The Sharks' only points of the first half came via a pair of penalty goals, the second of which came after Storm winger Anthony Quinn was placed on report on the stroke of halftime for an elbow to the throat of Sharks lock Paul Gallen.

The match began with a minute's silence following the death of Sharks halfback Scott Porter's sister overnight, Porter showing great courage to play in the round one match despite the tragedy.