The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs tonight ran out comprehensive 40-12 winners over Melbourne Storm in front of 12,014 fans at Perth’s NIB Stadium in wet and windy conditions.
A rampant Bulldogs outfit ran in seven tries against Storm, who were undefeated this season going into the clash. Pre kick-off the ledger was square at 16 wins each from their 32 previous meetings.
Chase Stanley was the only change from last week having recovered from a cork. Storm, however, lost skipper Cameron Smith during warm-up, who pulled out with back tightness.
Bulldogs went into their Round 4 fixture with the best defensive record in the league having conceded just 40 points, and although they found themselves 10-0 down early in the first half, clawed their way back into the contest.
It was a less than ideal start for Bulldogs with an error from Aiden Tolman gifting Storm possession in dangerous territory. Storm forced a dropout and from the subsequent set, a sharp backline movement involving Cooper Cronk, Kevin Proctor and Billy Slater saw the latter cross in the 8th minute to set up an early 4-0 lead. Tohu Harris was given the kicking duties in Smith’s absence but failed to covert.
It was all Storm in the opening minutes of the match as they dominated the ruck and off the back of a string of Bulldogs errors, Cronk sent Will Chambers through a gap to score untouched in the 14th minute. Harris converted from wide out to make the score 10-0.
Storm were handling the trying conditions best spending 71% of the opening 20 minutes camped in the Bulldogs’ half with Tolman racking up 20 tackles. The Bulldogs’ task was made even harder with co-captain Frank Pritchard soon after succumbing to an ankle injury and not returning to the field.
The Bulldogs faithful had to wait until the 23rd minute for their team’s first attacking opportunity and the Bulldogs made it count with a jinking Trent Hodkinson run seeing the in-form halfback plant the ball down beside the posts. Hodkinson converted his own try to make the score 10-6. It was the third consecutive game in which Hodkinson has crossed the line.
It didn’t take Bulldogs long to level the score with a slick backline movement in the 29th minute giving Josh Morris enough room to show his strength, with the newly-contracted centre slamming the ball down with several defenders hanging off him. Hodkinson slotted the extras giving the Bulldogs a 12-10 lead.
Josh Reynolds continued to probe deep into the first half but came up emptied-handed. There were no further additions with the two sides heading to the sheds with the score 12-10.
An illegal block from Michael Ennis on a chasing Slater gave Storm a penalty in front of the Bulldogs’ posts, which saw Harris level the score at 12-12 in the 43rd minute.
Bulldogs, however, soon regained the lead with prop David Klemmer charging over for his first NRL try after picking up a loose ball from a Hodkinson kick. Hodkinson made no mistake and in the 48th minute the scoreboard read 18-12.
In the 52nd minute, the Bulldogs extended their lead further with Tim Lafai splitting the Storm defence before off-loading to a supporting Josh Jackson who slid over next to the sticks. Hodkinson converted to make the score 24-12.
Jackson was denied a second try in the 60th minute after another scramble from a cross-field kick but after consultation with the video referee, it was deemed Jackson knocked the ball forward. Bulldogs got the scrum feed with Chambers making the first mistake and there was no denying James Graham after he crashed over courtesy of an Ennis short ball. Hodkinson slotted the conversion from close range and it was 30-12 in the 62nd minute.
A spectacular try was then scored in the 64th minute. Reynolds and Jackson combined to create space through the middle before Reynolds put a grubber through only for Tolman to be hauled down agonisingly short of the line. Form the next tackle Reynolds dinked a clever kick out to an unmarked Stanley to score in the corner. Hodkinson nailed the conversion to make it 36-12.
Lafai capped a big night with a deserved try in the 74th minute after a wrap-around with Jackson. The centre showed great speed and strength to cross the line. Hodkinson skewed his kick, tarnishing his perfect record for the night, leaving the score at 40-12.
And that’s the way it stayed.
The Bulldogs next week play Roosters at Allianz Stadium in a Friday night blockbuster. Kick-off at 7:40pm local time.
BULLDOGS 40 (Hodkinson, Morris, Klemmer, Jackson, Graham, Stanley, Lafia Tries; Hodkinson 6 Goals) def. STORM 12 (Slater, Chambers Tries; Harris 2 Goals)
At: NIB Stadium, Perth