(Main photo: photosport.nz).
Cronulla made history on Sunday night, picking up their first NRL Premiership with a 14-12 win over Melbourne in a gripping final. Here’s kiwileaguecentral.com’s player ratings for both teams.
1. Ben Barba
Executed the cheeky scrum play to score the first try of the match. Looked energetic even if his opportunities were scarce. 7.5/10.
2. Sosaia Feki
Handled everything thrown at home from Cooper Cronk and co on last tackles. Safe under the high ball and had a couple of nice plays to get Cronulla out of trouble. Left the game with injury after 47 minutes, which denied him a higher score and possibly also a spot on the end-of-year tour with the Kiwis. 7.5/10.
3. Jack Bird
Toughed it out despite picking up an elbow injury early. Did what he had to do in defence and added plenty in attack. 8/10.
4. Ricky Leutele
Some of his last-tackle plays were a little suspect, kicking a couple of times and gifting the Storm easy turnovers. But he still clocked 126 metres. 6.5/10.
5. Valentine Holmes
His energy was contagious, and by the end of the match he had run for 180 metres. Defensively he came up with some key hits to deny Melbourne scoring chances. 8/10.
Employed an aggressive approach with his defence, with a strong kick chase and some good contact ensuring the Storm couldn’t target him too much. Converted well off the boot which proved to be crucial in a tight match. 8/10.
7. Chad Townsend
Copped some punishment by the way of a couple of high shots. But the former Warrior did his job out there. 6.5/10.
8. Andrew Fifita
Huge for the Sharks all night. Played 61 minutes, went over the double-century mark in metres made and scored the winning try with an incredible effort. Unlucky not to take out the Clive Churchill Medal. 9/10
9. Michael Ennis
Niggled his way into the heads of many Storm players, and led the way in containing Cooper Cronk by harassing him on last-tackle plays. Made 40 tackles across 80 minutes. 8.5/10.
10. Matt Prior
Kept Cronulla up during a period where they were temporarily down to one on the bench. Had three seperate stints, playing 54 minutes. Charged through for 189 metres off 18 carries. 8.5/10.
11. Luke Lewis
Was denied a try in the first-half thanks to a last-ditch Blake Green effort, but Lewis was fantastic across 80 minutes on the park. Made 149 metres and had 28 tackles on the other side of the ball. A deserving recipient of the Clive Churchill Medal. 9/10.
12. Wade Graham
Went about his work, recovering well from bumping heads with Kenny Bromwich. Over 100 running metres and held his edge up well defensively. 7.5/10
13. Paul Gallen
It should come as no surprise that Gallen produced such a relentless effort on the biggest night of them all. In two stints equating to 58 minutes, the NSW Origin captain had 19 carries for 170 metres, with 28 tackles.. 8/10.
14. Gerard Beale
Only played half an hour, coming on as a replacement for fellow Kiwi Feki. Didn’t show the best of his game while on the field, with one bad missed tackle. 4/10.
15. Chris Heighington
Cronulla’s best off the interchange, coming close to scoring a try and causing plenty of headaches with his carries. Was caught out a little on Bromwich’s try, but otherwise really good. 7/10.
16. Sam Tagataese
Had a limited role, but somehow clocked up 53 metres in eight minutes. The Kiwi veteran was a noticeable addition. 5.5/10.
17. Jayson Bukuya
Copped a head knock and left the field, but returned to finish the match. Added some variety with his angled running game and defended well. 6/10.
1. Cameron Munster
Did well under the high ball but struggled to make any impact on attack, with his pack dominated for most of the encounter. 6/10.
2. Suliasi Vunivalu
Had some promising touches in attack, and featured heavily in the final play of the match as Melbourne came close to scoring a late match-winner. His inexperience was exposed a little in defence though. 6/10.
3. Will Chambers
Scored a good try to get the Storm back into the contest. Had another chance later in the match but failed to find a wide open Cooper Cronk. A mixed night for the Queenslander. 7/10.
4. Cheyse Blair
Like most of the Storm backline he didn’t get many chances on the ball. Made a crucial error in the second half when he contested a bomb with one hand and knocked on. 5/10.
5. Marika Koroibete
Was forced to act as an extra forward for much of the game, as his side’s pack faded under immense pressure. Did create a couple of opportunities, but well contained for the most part. 6.5/10.
6. Blake Green
His fantastic try-saving tackle on Luke Lewis was a first-half highlight, but Green failed to engineer anything significant on the other side of the ball. 6.5/10.
7. Cooper Cronk
A few days is a long time in rugby league. A Dally M winner mid-week, Cronk was shut down well by Cronulla and had little impact on this game. 6/10.
8. Jesse Bromwich
Got Melbourne back into the game with a determined carry over for a try, on a night where he ran for 144 metres. He did cough up a critical error in the second period though. 7.5/10.
9. Cameron Smith
Made 73 tackles in the middle of the park in a courageous effort. Laid on the assist for Bromwich and was his side’s best on ground. 9/10.
10. Jordan McLean
Had a steady game, headlined by some good defence. But he didn’t trouble the Sharks’ middle in attack. 6/10.
11. Kevin Proctor
Kept busy in his 66 minutes on the park, with 40 tackles. Not a huge worry in attack where he was missing his usual impact. 7/10.
12. Tohu Harris
Carried 16 time for 128 metres and made 46 tackles. Harris looked the most threatening attacking forward in a Storm jersey. Did make a couple of crucial errors though, including a slow effort to exit the scrum which saw Ben Barba score the opening try. 8/10.
13. Dale Finucane
Finished the game in the casualty ward, but was his usual tough presence for most of the match. 6.5/10.
14. Kenny Bromwich
Suffered a head knock after only 10 minutes on the field, but returned to play some decent footy. Had a couple of errors but also kept Cronulla honest with some good variety in attack. 6/10.
15. Tim Glasby
Strong off the bench, contributing 68 metres and 29 tackles, despite playing only 36 minutes. 6.5/10.
16. Christian Welch
Gave up a silly penalty in the lead-up to Andrew Fifita’s try, spoiling what had otherwise been an OK game for the bench man. 5/10.
17. Ben Hampton
His speed added another dimension to the Storm, but he didn’t get enough time to really make an impact. Set up Chambers’ go-ahead try. 6/10.