Melbourne Storm thrashed St George Illawarra 42-6 to top the NRL standings, Cronulla beat Warriors 29-10

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

In Sunday’s subsequent game, Cronulla defeated the Warriors 29-10 to finish the ninth round in the top four, despite being reduced to 12 players for much of the game.

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

Both runners will spend time on the sidelines after Storm moved to an 8-1 win-loss record for the season, as will second-place defending premiership Penrith.

However, Storm claimed the top spot on the ladder through his victory due to a superior point differential.

Papenhuyzen scored two tries before leaving the field early in the second half, after injuring his hamstring snapping on a kick from Nick Meaney and planting the ball for his second four-point shot.

The star fullback is expected to miss around two weeks, with Storm confirming it was a minor tear.

Papenhuyzen also hurt his knee in the first half.

Storm’s trainer, Craig Bellamy, admitted to pulling Papenhuyzen before the second injury crossed his mind.

“If I had known what I know now, I definitely would have taken it out,” Bellamy said.

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

“I’m not too sure with that knee, even if he didn’t have the hamstring, if he would be playing the next two weeks anyway.

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

That backup fullback won’t be Smith, who will be out 10-12 weeks after tearing his pectoral muscle in the early stages.

Injuries didn’t stop Storm from producing another dominating performance.

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

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

Asofa-Solomona, who impressed throughout the match with 77 meters after contact thanks to some brutal runs, found a try in the 67th minute and was one of 11 Storm players to run over 100 metres.

The Dragons dug in early but were unable to score points, and Jack De Belin’s consolation attempt came too late.

Sharks beat the odds in win over Warriors

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

Cronulla triumphed over the Warriors with a player down after fullback Will Kennedy was ejected early.

The win allowed the Sharks to move past Parramatta and back into the top four.

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

He had his left arm out when his counterpart Reece Walsh stepped on his left foot about 50 feet from the Sharks’ line.

Walsh jumped to his feet, but referee Todd Smith wasn’t swayed. Kennedy became the third NRL player sent off this season after Mitch Barnett (Newcastle) in the third round and Karl Lawton (Manly) in the eighth round.

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

The Sharks’ victory was made even braver after they were reduced to 11 players with Jesse Ramien un-binned by a shoulder to the head by opposing center Euan Aitken in the second half. Aitken failed the subsequent concussion test.

The lead changed three times in the first 40 minutes to underline the changes in momentum.

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

A second try for the Warriors came four minutes later on Viliami Vailea’s cross after a 30-yard swoop from Walsh.

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

It seemed that the floodgates were about to open. But tough defense, quick ball movement on offense and some smart plays kept the Sharks on top.

Hynes returned to being a fullback on defense, but returned to the front line as the second five-eighths.

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

That remained the halftime score, but not for long.

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

Even with 11 players for 10 minutes, after Ramien’s tackle, the Warriors couldn’t get any points. They remained goalless in the second half.

Ramien was back on the field in the 63rd minute and the Sharks scored three minutes later off Tracey’s double.

The Sharks’ fifth attempt was scored by Ramien.

Ladder

AAP/ABC

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