Canterbury scored five second half tries to thrash Melbourne 40-12 at Perth’s nib Stadium.
The result snapped Melbourne’s three-match winning streak and steadied the Bulldogs to 2-2 after four rounds.
It was a tumultuous week for Melbourne who had Jordan McLean dealing with the guilt of sending Alex McKinnon to hospital with a potential career-threatening neck injury before being freed to play.
And then came the last minute withdrawal of Cameron Smith with a back strain during the warm up.
Add to that, the short turnaround from Monday night football and Melbourne was due for a loss.
But despite this, it was a slick start by the Storm who raced to a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes on a soggy pitch. Stand-in skipper Cooper Cronk was typically influential, contributing to both tries.
The first was scored by full-back Billy Slater from a wonderful inside ball from Kevin Proctor before laying on for centre Will Chambers who exposed Tim Lafai’s defence.
From that point on, the Bulldogs scored 40 of the last 42 points including seven unanswered tries.
Trent Hodkinson and Josh Morris replied with four-pointers as the Bulldogs fought back to take a 12-10 lead into half-time.
Tohu Harris, the designated kicker for Melbourne in the absence of Smith, locked up the scores at 12-12 four minutes into the second half.
But what initially appeared to be a comeback by the Bulldogs evolved into an old fashioned drubbing as Des Hasler’s men ran in another five tries, with Josh Reynolds shining in a masterful performance.
Tim Lafai made up for his earlier lapse, as he passed for replacement forward David Klemmer to score his first NRL try.
Josh Jackson and James Graham, who was battered pillar to post, both added tries.
And then came a piece of brilliance by Reynolds who pinpointed a delightful kick for Cheyse Stanley to score in the right corner.
The 28 point loss was Melbourne’s worst since Round 18 last year, which coincidently (or not) was also against the Bulldogs, by 39 points on that occasion.
The only sour note for Canterbury was an ankle injury to Frank Pritchard in the first half. And perhaps more seriously, I couldn’t help but feel concerned when English prop James Graham was allowed to stay on the field after receiving two heavy head knocks in the first half – especially with the increased awareness of how serious concussion can be. But we’ll back the team doctor’s judgements.
The Storm defence definitely looked a little jaded from the travel and short turnaround and missed the leadership of Cam Smith.
The crowd of 12,014 was pretty good considering it was a neutral venue and the rain was tumbling down on Saturday night.
Craig Bellamy will be keen to regain Smith and rebound with a win at home next Sunday against John Cartwright’s Titans while Canterbury will take on reigning premiers Sydney in a crunch match on Friday night.
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