NRL Round 22 – Melbourne v Cronulla: Ramien Rescue

Cronulla Sharks 17  Melbourne Storm 14

4:00 pm, Sunday 12th August

AAMI Park, Melbourne

 

He swoops on the loose ball and switches the gearstick to sprint mode. Five metre head start. Only grass ahead of him. Josh Addo-Carr closing in behind. Jesse Ramien escapes the grasp of Addo-Carr and Cameron Munster, but thinks he’s been called held, and surrenders. Josh Dugan spots Addo-Carr taking his eye off the ruck, darts past him, and drives over to score the match-deciding try. It’s a ruthless counterattack, the type that Melbourne themselves delight in executing. Imagine having it happen to you. Ten minutes of turning the screw and you’re on minus four points. Though the Storm get four of their own back minutes later, the two that matter most feel weirdly destined to head back to the Shire. And they do.

 

 

35 minutes played. Melbourne are badly off their game but Cronulla’s lead remains narrow. The lucrative left edge is utilised once more. Matt Moylan to Valentine Holmes. Val cuts out Ricky Leutele to find Sosaia Feki – who’s had a tough season and isn’t yet guaranteed to be in town for the next one – Feki swerves round his opposing winger, keeps his feet an inch inside the touchline, and throws an outrageous (if slightly forward) one-handed ball for Holmes to score. The attack doesn’t click as swiftly and consistently as it did two years ago, but the Sharks can still pluck a big play out of the bag when required. Our Valentine has a hand in most of them these days. His 19th try of the season equals David Peachey’s club record; one which will soon belong to him alone. I said at the start of the year that he should be aiming to double his 2017 tally. He’s only gone and tripled it. While there’s more to a fullback than putting the ball down over the line, Holmes is in the process of tapping into levels of quality that few can deal with.

 

 

No-one flew home with more cons than pros. Everyone bought into the task. It’s now clear that the defensive problems on show against Manly were not a question of communication, but of attitude. Twice the Sharks repelled what looked to be inevitable tries; Ramien a key figure in both moments. What a player he’s becoming. What a pity his time in black white and blue will be so brief. A wild bounce on a chip bound for Billy Slater’s hands was a lucky break, but it felt deserved given the resilience displayed throughout that spell of pressure. Gallen vindicates his decision to postpone retirement with a barnstorming first-half. Prior keeps on making ground without attracting headlines. Townsend locates his short kicking mojo. That field goal proved very handy in the end, it ruled out the pop at goal as a useful option for Melbourne, and allowed Cronulla to tactically concede as many penalties as they pleased (Leutele is fortunate to avoid a sin-binning). Brailey ends up with an ear like Dumbo the elephant for his troubles, but opens the scoring, steers the attack with assurance, and could hold our no.9 jersey for years if he wishes to. The arrangement of sharing minutes with Segeyaro seems to compliment their different styles.

 

 

It’s an awesome result. Beating the premiers on their own patch isn’t to be sniffed at. A season beginning to wobble is set back on track by a performance which ticks nearly all the boxes of what you look for in a Flanagan side. The coaches’ game of musical chairs currently kicking off was a welcome sideshow; in any other week Cronulla would have been on the media’s Clubs In Crisis list. Though this team seems to need to be doubted in order to play its best football, so who knows. Three weeks til the finals. All three opponents are closer to the wooden spoon than the top eight. None are likely to roll over obligingly. Cronulla realistically need to beat them all to earn a second chance, but you sense that someone from outside the favourites could make a late surge. It’s a wide open road; it’s a wide open comp. Go out and play without fear.

 

 

Cronulla Sharks 17 (Jayden Brailey, Valentine Holmes, Josh Dugan tries; Valentine Holmes 2 goals; Chad Townsend field goal) defeated Melbourne Storm 14 (Suliasi Vunivalu 2, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 1 goal). Crowd: 16 709.

 

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About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.