Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks
Friday, 21 September, 7:40pm
AAMI Park, Melbourne
The Melbourne Storm is seeking a third consecutive NRL Grand Final appearance when it hosts the Cronulla Sharks on Friday night. These two sides have developed an intense rivalry, with Cronulla holding sway in recent times.
The Sharks’ most famous victory against the Storm came in the 2016 NRL Grand Final when they were victorious 14-12. Cronulla has won four of its past five encounters against Melbourne. Each team won 16 matches during the home and away season, with Cronulla taking the chocolates on both occasions it faced the Storm.
In round 4 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in what is now known as the ‘penalty-a-thon’, the Sharks won 14-4 and Storm captain Cameron Smith was sin binned for the first time in his career. Over 30 penalties were blown in the match, following the league’s much-publicised discipline crackdown.
In round 22 at AAMI Park, the Storm once against stumbled against the Sharks, despite the visitors conceding seven more penalties. Cronulla held on for a 17-14 win.
Cronulla snuck home against Penrith in last weekend’s semi-final by just a point. After leading 18-0 in the first half, the Sharks looked spent in the second stanza, as a pair of tries to Penrith late in the game ensured a memorable finish. Chad Townsend slotted a wobbly, 74th minute field goal that proved decisive.
Melbourne enjoyed a week off after beating South Sydney 29-28 in the first weekend of the finals. Cameron Munster’s field goal was the winner for Melbourne, as it rallied from six points down with six minutes to play to snatch victory from Souths’ grasp.
Stats That Matter
- Cronulla has won only twice at AAMI Park in nine attempts, with those wins coming in 2017 and 2018.
- Melbourne has conceded only 391 points this season and ranks second in the National Rugby League in that category. Cronulla is also in the top four when it comes to points conceded, allowing only 464 total points.
- Melbourne (11-14) was one of the worst teams against the spread this season, covering only 44 per cent of the time. Cronulla covered the spread in 13 of its games.
- The total match points has gone under in nine of the past 12 meetings between these two teams, dating back to 2012.
- Valentine Holmes has over 3,500 run metres in 25 games this season and has scored 22 tries, including one against the Storm.
The Wolf knows that Cronulla has had Melbourne’s measure in recent times. The Sharks won’t be afraid of travelling to Melbourne for this Grand Final qualifier, knowing they have the wood on the Storm in recent times. The Storm are big favourites to win and progress to the Grand Final and I expect them to, but not by a big margin.
How It Shapes Up
Melbourne by 6.
Best: Melbourne 1-12 ($2.75)
Value: Storm 1-12 / Under 36 ($5.45)
First Tryscorer: Billy Slater ($11)