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RugbyL: Crisis club Sharks win emotional NRL opener

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Crisis club Cronulla Sharks overcame a turbulent week of doping scandals to open their National Rugby League season with an emotional 12-10 victory over Gold Coast on Sunday.

It followed a week where up to 14 players were implicated in a swoop by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) which led to the standing down of head coach Shane Flanagan and the sacking of four other football staff members.

The narrow victory was just the tonic the embattled club and its fans needed ahead of the full ramifications of ASADA's investigation in the wake of a wide-ranging Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report into doping in Australian sport.

The Sharks held on for a tenacious victory before their home fans and in the end it was a missed Aidan Sezer conversion that proved the difference with both sides scoring two tries.

Defending NRL and world club champions Melbourne Storm opened their title defence with an impressive 30-10 home victory over St George Illawarra on Sunday.

In scorching temperatures, the Storm showed no signs of a hangover from their recent trip to England for the World Club Challenge where they beat Leeds for the title.

The Storm ran in three unanswered tries in the first half to set up the victory, with Test fullback Billy Slater scoring the opening try.

Test scrumhalf Johnathan Thurston guided the North Queensland Cowboys to a 24-12 win over the Ben Barba-less Canterbury Bulldogs.

The off-contract Thurston showed why he is the most sought-after man in the NRL, setting up three tries.

Canterbury were without seven players from last year's grand final team, most noticeably 2012 Dally M Medal winner Barba, who is out of the game indefinitely as he battles personal issues.

Russell Crowe's South Sydney Rabbitohs ruined Sonny Bill Williams' much-hyped return to the NRL as they scored an emphatic 28-10 win over the Sydney Roosters on Thursday's opening night.

The Rabbitohs showed they will be a force in 2013 and in Test star Greg Inglis the Rabbitohs have arguably the best player in the competition.

Inglis was magnificent, having a hand in four of his side's five tries -- three of which were scored by winger Nathan Merritt.

Williams was playing his first NRL match since quitting New Zealand rugby where he was a World Cup winner with the All Blacks in 2011.

Manly Sea Eagles scored three tries in seven minutes early in the second half to storm home over Brisbane 22-14 in Brisbane on Friday.

The Broncos looked on course to win with a 14-6 half-time lead before they were swamped by a Sea Eagles attack led magnificently by scrumhalf Daley Cherry-Evans.

In other results, Penrith Panthers downed the Canberra Raiders 32-10 and the Parramatta Eels tossed the New Zealand Warriors 40-10.

Wayne Bennett's Newcastle Knights host Wests Tigers on Monday.

rsm/pj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130310/rugbyl-crisis-club-sharks-win-emotional-nrl-opener