The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have started the 2017 NRL season with a tough 12-6 loss to the Melbourne Storm at Belmore Sports Ground.
In atrocious conditions, the Bulldogs battered the Storm’s line late but were unable to find a try to bridge the 12-6 half-time deficit.
The Storm had all the momentum in the early stages of the game, opening the scoring in the fourth minute after a Josh Addo-Carr bust from deep in the Storm’s half. Late in the set Will Chambers ran down the short side and slipped a ball to Cheyse Blair to open the scoring.
The Storm then charged back from the ensuing restart to score their second try and take a 10-0 lead. Suliasi Vunivalu picked up where he finished the 2016 season, latching onto Cooper Cronk’s deft cross-field kick to score close to the posts. The Storm added a penalty goal in the 25th minute to extend their lead, despite losing star forward Jesse Bromwich to a hand injury.
Sam Kasiano was injected midway through the half from the interchange bench and made an immediate impact, winning the Bulldogs a penalty to put his side on the attack. Shortly after the Bulldogs hit back with a great try to Josh Reynolds. Debutant Brenko Lee made a bust down the right side to put Reynolds away under the sticks and Kerrod Holland converted.
Both sides went down to 12-men after a melee late in the half. The Bulldogs earned the penalty but couldn’t convert to close the gap before the half time break.
The Bulldogs had their chances in the second half. A great kick chase put the Bulldogs on the attack in the 53rd minute, with Cameron Munster bundled over the sideline bringing the ball out from his own line. Later, a Josh Reynolds intercept put the Dogs downfield but some great defence from the Storm saw them hold on to their slender lead.
In a tough night for enterprising footy, the Bulldogs showed glimpses of a revamped 2017 attack and troubled the Storm in patches. Will Hopoate had a strong game at the back and Michael Lichaa showed more willingness to run from dummy half. There were also some strong performances up front, with Sam Kasiano and David Klemmer constantly bending back the Storm line.
The Bulldogs head east to face the Sydney Roosters in round two next Thursday 9 March.
Melbourne Storm 12 (Blair, Vunivalu tries; Smith 2 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 6 (Reynolds try; Holland goal) at Belmore Sportsground. Half time: Storm 12-6. Crowd: 8,712.