Nostalgia. A loud and proud sea of blue and white. Bulldogs legends. Plenty of points. The homecoming to Belmore had it all. In front of 16,764 fans, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs prevailed 20-4.
We’re coming home alright! Bulldogs celebrated their anticipated return to Belmore Sports Ground with an entertaining victory over Melbourne Storm, scoring four tries to one.
It was the first time in 17 years that the Bulldogs played an NRL match at their ‘spiritual home’. Coincidentally, it was against Storm with Bulldogs prevailing 8-4. Most fans will remember if for Craig Polla-Mounter’s iconic sliding try in torrential rain.
A bustling Burwood Street, the ‘car park full’ sign up at Canterbury Leagues Club and the waft of hotdogs strolling down Edison Lane. Fans were just as keen for a trip down memory lane as the players. There wasn’t a spare blade of grass on the hill and Bulldogs legends Terry Lamb, Steve Mortimer, Dr George Peponis and sharpshooter Daryl Halligan were all part of the pre-match hype.
Brett Morris and Trent Hodkinson returned to the side while Shaun Lane started in the place of the suspended Josh Jackson.
David Klemmer took the first charge of the match and the extra grunt set the tone for the rest of the first half. It took just three minutes for the Bulldogs to cross with Brett Morris collecting a clever grubber from Curtis Rona. Hodkinson slotted the extras for an early 6-0 lead.
From the kick off, a rampaging charge via that man Klemmer again earned 20m and a penalty, which put Bulldogs on the attack once more. A short side play deep into the set saw Lane cross for his first NRL try. Hodkinson converted for 12-0 with only eight minutes gone.
In the 12th minute, Sam Perrett got in on the act sliding over in the corner on the back of a well worked backline move and after the video referee gave it the green light it was 16-0! The try assist went to Lane. Hodkinson was unsuccessful with the kick.
Bulldogs continued their onslaught with Josh Morris breaking free in the subsequent set, to find Frank Pritchard but Storm fullback Cameron Munster nulled the threat with a strong tackle.
Klemmer had racked up 118m after just 25 minutes!
Storm worked their way back into the contest late in the first half but Bulldogs defence was just as exemplary as their attack and they held their opponents to zero at the break.
Klemmer finished the first 40 minutes with 139m from 10 hit-ups while skipper Aiden Tolman led from the front with 12 hit-ups (96m) and 17 tackles.
It was Bulldogs turn to kick off and a strong tackle forced the Storm back to their 5m line to start their set. Another promising opening.
The keen eye of Sam Kasiano, who was in at dummy half, spotted an unmarked Josh Morris on the wing and he slid over untouched to start the second half where the first ended. Hodkinson failed to covert for 20-0 in the 46th minute.
A chant for Josh Reynolds erupted with 20 minutes left on the clock and a clap of appreciation from the super-sub brought raucous cheers. Coach Des Hasler responded to the fans cries, injecting Reynolds into the match only minutes later with Hodkinson earning a rest.
Marifa Koroibete found room to fly down the left flank in the 65th minute but Brett Morris made a brilliant bootlaces tackle in cover. Those two were at it again with just four minutes on the clock. Koroibete collected a cross-field kick only for Morris crash into the winger at full flight and send him hurtling over the sideline.
Koroibete persisted though and wasn’t to be denied in the final minute, sliding over in the corner for a late consolation. Cameron Smith failed with his conversion for a 20-4 full-time score.
We are the mighty Bulldogs. The Canterbury breed. We play it hard. We play it tough. We’re the greatest in the league!
Shaun Lane was awarded Man Of The Match with 31 tackles, 14 runs (138m), five tackles busts, a try and an assist. As for Klemmer, he finished the match with a whopping 213m from 18 charges.
Bulldogs fans were also treated to the team song in front of the hill, capping a magical night of footy. Thanks for the support!
If you missed the sell out homecoming, you’ve got a second chance with Bulldogs hosting Cronulla at Belmore on Sunday, July 26.
Bulldogs have the bye next round before returning to action in Round 18 on Saturday, July 11 at ANZ Stadium against the Broncos.
BULLDOGS 20 (B.Morris, Lane, S.Perrett, J.Morris Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals) def. Storm 4 (Koroibete Tries)
At: Belmore Sports Ground