The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs advanced to week two of the 2014 finals series after a 28-4 victory over the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in front 19,230 fans.
It was a dominant first half display from the men in blue and white, going to the half-time break leading 24-nil.
There was just the one change to the side name earlier in the week with Moses Mbye dropping out of the 17 and Pat O’Hanlon being the man to win that final spot on the bench.
It was early field position that brought about the first points for the Bulldogs when Greg Eastwood crossed in just the sixth minute of play. Every Storm set was coming out of their own end and the content and enthusiasm from the Bulldogs was great. After a full set it was captain Michael Ennis who was left to take the cross field kick and with the sun in their eyes, the ball came down and centre Tim Lafai had a free shot at the ball and batted it back into the hands of Eastwood who strolled over to score. Trent Hodkinson again had the kicking boots packed and sent the ball over to jump out to 6-nil lead after seven minutes.
The defence was laying the platform, the boys were up in the opposition’s face and they were winning almost every element of the game. After an error to each side it was the blue and whites who had the ball just 15m out from the line. On the third tackle, Ennis showed it left but gave it right to James Graham and he threw an out ball to Hodkinson who had no one in front of him and the Origin halfback strode over to score untouched. He converted his own try giving the Bulldogs a 12-nil lead after 15 minutes.
Just two minutes later the ‘in the face’ style of defence tactic worked once again. This time it was pressure on former Bulldog Ben Roberts and after a few offloads, he thought he had one in him and when he forced the pass, it was straight into the hands of Lafai who excepted the ball and ran 50m untouched to score next to the right hand upright. Hodkinson slotted the kick over to extend the lead out 18-nil after as many minutes.
A Will Chambers error on half-way in the 37th minute gave the Bulldogs another good attaching opportunity and the boys from Belmore didn’t disappoint. This time it was big David Klemmer who carried the ball forward strongly and after fending off one man he flicked the ball over the top, into the hands of Lafai who as the defence came across, he stepped inside and cruised over to score. Hodkinson again converted to give the Bulldogs a 24-nil lead at the half-time break.
As we’ve seen in games gone by this weekend, there was no room for complacency and the Storm, off the back of a penalty where Klemmer was placed on report, opened their account through winger Sisa Waqa. With a full set of six inside the attacking zone, it was a play to the right and Waqa went over to score. With Cameron Smith unable to kick due to his ankle injury, Chambers took over the kicking duties and couldn’t convert, with the score now 24-4 after 46 minutes.
Both teams had a try disallowed in the next passage of play with Waqa and then Corey Thompson unable to cross the stripe without an error occurring.
In a sickening piece of play, Pat O’Hanlon was brought down in a tackle and his leg appeared to have been broken in the process. O’Hanlon was taken from the field on a stretcher with a full diagnosis expected on Monday.
Three players were placed on report shortly after with the Storm’s Billy Slater appearing to knee Josh Reynolds in the back whilst Josh Morris will await a decision from the match review committee after a call of ‘chicken wing’ was used. Will Chambers then hit Ennis late in a tackle and received the same news where he will wait to hear from the committee.
With players dropping like flies and tiring in defence, Greg Eastwood took an intercept with five minutes on the clock. The Kiwi international ran 35m before finding Lafai on his right and the Samoan born centre ran the remaining 40m untouched to register his hat-trick of tries for the afternoon. Hodkinson couldn’t convert with the score remaining 28-4.
Tha tis how the score remained with the Bulldogs now to face the Manly Sea-Eagles at Allianz Stadium next Saturday night.
BULLDOGS 28 (Lafai 3, Eastwood, Hodkinson Tries; Hodkinson 4 Goals)
STORM 4 (Waqa Try)
At: AAMI Park, Melbourne