Melbourne have outgunned Cronulla 26-6 to win the NRL minor premiership and set up a qualifying final against defending premiers North Queensland.
With the two top teams battling for the JJ Giltinan Shield on Saturday night at AAMI Park, the clinical Storm steamrolled the Sharks to win the trophy for the first time since 2011.
On the back of the loss, the Sharks could fall to third, with Canberra a chance to leapfrog them with a win on Sunday over the Wests Tigers. Regardless of the outcome of the Leichhardt Oval clash, the teams will meet next weekend in the second qualifying final.
The Cowboys earlier cemented fourth spot and a meeting with the Storm at AAMI Park with a 32-16 win over Gold Coast.
While centre Cheyse Blair scored a try in each half, Melbourne’s stoic defence was key to their victory, repelling the Sharks’ attacking threats to keep them tryless until the 69th minute.
Rugby-bound winger Marika Koroibete showed what a loss he would be to the NRL with some scintillating runs and bone-crunching defence.
Centre Will Chambers, who missed three months with a fractured foot, also looked back to his best, while the Storm pack gave the Sharks no room to move.
Cronulla, aiming for their first minor premiership since 1999, threw everything at Melbourne but never really looked like they were in the hunt.
They suffered a setback in the first half losing two forwards in Chris Heighington (concussion) and Joseph Paulo (knee) as the Storm went up 10-2 at the break.
The Sharks could have further worries with a late hit by hooker Michael Ennis taking out Storm five-eighth Blake Green as he put Blair through for his first try.
MORE TO COME