The Sharks have downed the Storm 14-4 in a match marred by 30 penalties.Cronulla have upset Melbourne 14-4 in one of the most dour affairs of the NRL season, marred by a massive penalty count.
The Sharks rattled the premiers from start to finish on Friday but the wash-up will centre on referees Matt Cecchin and Alan Shortall who blew 30 penalties, according to Fox Sports Stats.
On another three occasions Storm players were marched 10 metres for back-chat.
The game will place further scrutiny on NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and referees boss Bernie Sutton and their crackdown on infringements.
The game was a stop-start affair with the Storm failing to cross for a try despite the home side giving away 14 penalties.
Both sides were frustrated by persistent whistleblowing and referee Cecchin finally ran out of patience when he sin-binned Storm skipper Cameron Smith for dissent.
Smith was last year mockingly labelled “referee Cameron Smith” by Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and the 13,196-strong crowd was whipped into a frenzy when he was banished to the sheds for back chat.
It was believed to be the first time Smith had been sin-binned in his career and the Storm skipper said he couldn’t remember being sent for 10.
Centre Will Chambers was also put on report for a grapple tackle late in the game.
The Sharks ran out winners after a try-less second half with three Chad Townsend penalty goals and a Joe Stimson penalty goal the only times the scoreboard attendant was bothered during the second stanza.
The Sharks went to half time up 8-2 despite having Luke Lewis sin-binned for 10 minutes midway through the first-half and being on the end of a 10-5 penalty count in the first 40.
The only try of the game came when Jesse Ramien showed incredible pace to get on the outside of Curtis Scott and Josh Addo-Carr and popped a flick pass for Edrick Lee.
The Sharks were without strike weapons Matt Moylan (knee) and Josh Dugan (leg) but showed strong defensive resolve to keep the Storm try-less and collect the win.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said it wasn’t the referee’s fault for the high penalty count and they were just following orders from NRL headquarters.
“Todd’s got to look at it – the referees are just doing what they’re told to do,” Flanagan said.
“We’ve talked about this for a month now. What you saw at the end of the game (when there was an all-in push and shove) was because of the penalty count.
“Players are getting frustrated. But you can’t blame the referees. Someone needs to go and ask Todd.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said he was more concerned with his side’s 15 errors and 27 from 29 completion rate.
“There were a lot of penalties but I’m not here to criticise the referees or criticise the way they’ve decided to go,” Bellamy said.
“At the end of the day, I was really disappointed in our performance today. That’s all I can control and that’s all I’ll focus on.”