Melbourne Storm thrash St George Illawarra 42-6 to top NRL ladder, Cronulla defeats Warriors 29-10

The Storm scored seven tries in a 42-6 thrashing of St George Illawarra in Melbourne, but the win came at a cost with Ryan Papenhuyzen and Reimis Smith both injured.

In Sunday’s later match, Cronulla defeated the Warriors 29-10 to finish round nine inside the top four, despite being reduced to 12 players for much of the match.

The Storm will go into Saturday’s blockbuster clash with Penrith on top of the ladder, but they will be without injured duo Papenhuyzen and Smith.

Both backs will spend time on the sideline after the Storm moved to an 8-1 win-loss record for the season, the same as second-placed defending premiers Penrith.

The Storm claimed top spot on the ladder via their win, however, because of a superior points differential.

Papenhuyzen scored two tries before exiting the field early in the second half, having injured his hamstring bursting onto a Nick Meaney kick and planting the ball down for his second four-pointer.

The star fullback is expected to miss around two weeks, with the Storm confirming it was a lower-grade tear.

Papenhuyzen also tweaked his knee in the first half.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted taking Papenhuyzen off before the second injury had crossed his mind.

“If I’d known what I know now, I definitely would have taken him off,” Bellamy said.

“We knew he wasn’t going to be involved like he is with the ball, but we were only 12 points up.

“I’m not quite sure with that knee — even if he hadn’t got the hamstring — whether he’d be playing the next couple of weeks anyway.

“So he’s got a couple of injuries to deal with, so we have to find ourselves a fullback for the next couple of weeks.”

That fill-in fullback will not be be Smith, who is set for 10 to 12 weeks out after tearing his pectoral muscle in the opening stages.

The injuries did not stop the Storm producing another dominant performance.

They have outscored their last three opponents by a combined 144 points after 70-10 and 50-2 floggings of the Warriors and Newcastle in their previous two outings.

It was the 16th consecutive time the Storm have beaten the Dragons in Melbourne, marking milestones for Kenny Bromwich (200th match) and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (150th match) with victory.

Asofa-Solomona, who impressed throughout the match with 77 post-contact metres courtesy of some brutal runs, found a try on 67 minutes and was one of 11 Storm players to run for more than 100 metres.

The Dragons dug in early but could not score points, with Jack De Belin’s consolation try coming far too late.

Sharks beats odds in win over Warriors

Sharks fullback Will Kennedy (right) was sent from the field early in the first half.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

Cronulla triumphed over the Warriors while being a player down after fullback Will Kennedy was sent off early.

The win allowed the Sharks to leapfrog Parramatta and climb back into the top four.

They lost Kennedy in the 16th minute when he was dismissed for a dangerous high tackle.

He had stuck his left arm out as his opposite number Reece Walsh stepped off his left foot about 15 metres out from the Sharks line.

Walsh jumped straight to his feet but referee Todd Smith was not swayed. Kennedy became the third NRL player sent off this season after Mitch Barnett (Newcastle) in round three and Karl Lawton (Manly) in round eight.

Neither the Knights nor the Sea Eagles were able to win those matches, and in fact it has been 14 years since a team has won with 12 players.

The Sharks’ win was even more courageous after they were reduced to 11 players with Jesse Ramien sin-binned for a shoulder into opposing centre Euan Aitken’s head in the second half. Aitken failed the subsequent concussion test.

The lead changed three times in the opening 40 minutes to underline the momentum shifts.

After being reduced to 12 players, the Sharks conceded a try in the next set, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scooting over for the Warriors in the right corner.

A second try for the Warriors came four minutes later to centre Viliami Vailea after a Walsh 30-metre bust.

That gave the Warriors the lead for the first time at 10-6 after Sharks playmaker Nicho Hynes had opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

It seemed the floodgates were about to open. But steely defence, swift ball movement in attack, and some smart plays kept the Sharks on top.

Hynes reverted to fullback in defence, but slipped back into the attacking line as a second five-eighth.

And after four sets on the Warriors line the pressure valve was released with the Sharks scoring their second try through back rower Teig Wilton to regain the lead at 12-10.

That remained the half-time score but not for long.

The Sharks went in again six minutes after the break through winger Connor Tracey, who was enjoying his first match back in five weeks (groin strain).

Even while down to 11 players for 10 minutes — after Ramien’s tackle — the Warriors could not post points. They were held scoreless in the second half.

Ramien was back on the field in the 63rd minute and the Sharks scored three minutes later with Tracey icing a double.

The Sharks fifth try was scored by Ramien.



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