Baffling sin bin sends Storm spiralling as Sharks overcome Hynes’ absence to silence critics … somewhat


The NRL’s crackdown on kick pressure has officially jumped the shark after a crucial call went Cronulla’s way with Storm star Harry Grant ending up in the sin bin. 

Grant appeared to accidentally make contact with Sharks five-eighth Daniel Atkinson late in the first half of Saturday night’s top-of-the-table tussle at AAMI Park. 

He was not even looking at his opponent but grazed Atkinson’s leg after he booted the ball downfield and was surprised when referee Grant Atkins penalised him, even more so when he then banished him to the sin bin. 

Cronulla scored off the ensuing set to make it 12-12 at the break and after the scores were again deadlocked at 18-18 in the final 10 minutes, a field goal to Atkinson put the visitors ahead before Siosifa Talakai sealed the 25-18 win with a runaway try from the short kick-off restart.

“I had no eyes or Atko or putting that kind of pressure on. I was pulling myself away from dangerous contact. Unfortunately it cost us,” Grant said when asked about the sin bin.

The Sharks are now 8-1, their best start to a season since they were minor premiers in 1999, to take sole ownership of top spot from Melbourne. 

Stars on the sidelines

All the talk leading into the game was around how Melbourne would cope without fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen after his latest leg fracture and halfback Jahrome Hughes due to his calf strain. 

But the Sharks pulled a swifty by keeping Nicho Hynes’ calf strain a secret, ruling him out an hour before kickoff with Blayke Brailey switching to halfback alongside Atkinson and Cameron McInnes returning to the hooking role. 

Atkinson, who only got a start a couple of weeks ago when Braydon Trindall was stood down due to his drink-driving charges, stepped up with Hynes watching on from Craig Fitzgibbon’s coaches box.

How do you see this one?

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Not only was he cool in potting the match-winning field goal six minutes from time, he organised the Cronulla attack like a seasoned veteran.

Atkinson got his start in the NRL at the Storm but came back to haunt his old club with a five-star display. “He was absolutely outstanding,” McInnes said.

This match was supposed to be a referendum on whether Cronulla were a legitimate title threat but it’s hard to read too much into the result given they were without Hynes and the Storm were also weakened this weekend. 

Both teams looked discombobulated in the opening exchanges, conceding penalties and fumbling the ball on the attack to kill any momentum the looked like they were about to generate.

Harry Grant is held up. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Storm second-rower Eliesa Katoa scored the first try from close range before Sharks interchange behemoth Tuku Hau Tapuha did likewise a short time later.

When a specialist hooker switches to the halves, the attacking side of things can be easier to adapt to but defensive reads can be a problem.

Tackling in the middle is a tougher but much more simplistic task and Brailey was caught out when a Cameron Munster pass off the edge of the ruck found Reimis Smith hurtling to the line for a six-point advantage.

FILTH. Absolute filth from Cameron Munster.

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The Grant sin-binning led to Cronulla squaring the ledger at the break when prop Oregon Kaufusi scrambled through a couple of defenders but despite not convincing Atkins, the Bunker saw enough to award him the try. 

Melbourne were uncharacteristically flat after getting their half-time rev-up from Craig Bellamy early in the second half and Sharks centre Jesse Ramien muscled his way over the stripe out wide to enhance his NSW State of Origin claims.

Cronulla’s forwards were hunting like a pack but the Storm struggled to get the upper hand in the middle of the field.

Young fullback Sua Faalogo was dangerous whenever he was given a slither of space and will be hard to leave out of the Storm’s game-day line-up when Papenhuyzen returns next month. 

As he has done a couple of times this season, Tyran Wishart bobbed up at the right time to dummy his way past the stretched Sharks defence 10 minutes from full-time to lock the scores up at 18 apiece to set up a thrilling finish.

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