Matt Pritchard reviews Melbourne Storm’s thumping win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Tries: Luke Thompson (21), Jake Averillo (52), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (58)
Goals: Kyle Flanagan (23, 53, 59)
Tries: Felise Kaufusi (3), Jahrome Hughes (11), Christian Welch (16), Tui Kamikamica (34), George Jennings (38), Ryan Papenhuyzen (43), Justin Olam (68), Josh Addo-Carr (71), Nicho Hynes (76)
Goals: Ryan Papenhuyzen (4, 13, 17, 35, 40, 45, 72, 78)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)
2 pts – George Jennings (Storm)
1 pt – Felise Kaufusi (Storm)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Both sides were greeted by comfortable conditions on what appeared a fast track at Stadium Australia. It was the first time the Melbourne Storm had returned to the scene of their 2020 grand final success, while the Bulldogs were looking to end a point-scoring drought.
Melbourne got off to a lightning start. Following a penalty from Jack Hetherington in the ruck, Felise Kaufusi scored the opening try of the match as he barged over from close range. Ryan Papenhuyzen converted to make it a six-point lead at the five minute mark.
Following a one-on-one strip by Justin Olam on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Melbourne scored in the ensuing set when Cameron Munster kicked through for Jahrome Hughes to score. Papenhuyzen added the extras from close range.
A set restart conceded by the Bulldogs on their own line led to Melbourne’s third try: one pass off the ruck to Christian Welch. Papenhuyzen’s third conversion saw the score keep up with the number of minutes played.
The Bulldogs went close to scoring with Jake Averillo bursting through the Storm’s defence, before being met by Papenhuyzen in the last line of defence close to the line.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that the Bulldogs finally broke their points drought after 265 minutes of game time, as English import Luke Thompson scored in his first appearance for the 2021 season. Kyle Flanagan combined with Watene-Zelezniak, before finding Thompson, who scored next to the posts. Flanagan converted the try to reduce the lead to twelve.
Harry Grant was introduced into the game after 26 minutes after missing the start of the season through injury. He would play unchanged for the remainder of the game.
Despite some renewed confidence from the Bulldogs, Melbourne scored five minutes from half-time when Harry Grant ran out from dummy half and found Tui Kamikamica, who barged over from close range. Both teams came together with push and shove following the try; Ofahiki Ogden and Nelson Asofa-Solomona were sin binned for their part in the melee. Papenhuyzen’s conversion restored the lead to 18 points.
Right on half-time George Jennings scored in the corner after Kaufusi threatened to score following a line break in the previous play. Papenhuyzen’s sideline strike hit the left hand upright and bounced in to give the Storm a 24-point lead at half-time.
HALF-TIME: Melbourne Storm 30 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6
Melbourne’s intent to pile on the points continued in the early stages of the second half.
It wasn’t long before some quick hands down the right edge saw Jennings scoot down the sideline. He kicked back infield for a flying Papenhuyzen, who grounded the ball just inside the dead-ball line. He converted his own try to make it 36-6 after 45 minutes.
Canterbury hit back 12 minutes into the second half following Tui Katoa’s break downfield and a set reset shortly after. Averillo scored thanks to an offload from Adam Elliott. Flanagan converted to reduce Melbourne’s lead to four converted tries.
A rare mistake at the back by Papenhuyzen after an excellent kick by Averillo gave the Bulldogs another set of six, further compounded by the drop-out going out on the full. The Bulldogs then scored their third try, as Averillo’s kick towards the posts saw Watene-Zelezniak beat Munster to the ball. Flanagan made it three from three and after 60 minutes the Storm led 36-18.
Averillo continued to steer Canterbury in the right direction with a brilliant 40/20 kick. The Bulldogs couldn’t convert with Tui Katoa tackled into touch thanks to scrambling Storm defence on the last tackle.
Justin Olam put the Storm past 40 points as they moved play from right to left, with Kenneath Bromwich putting the kick through for the PNG International to score. Papenhuyzen missed his first conversion of the evening with the score remaining 40-18 with 10 minutes to go.
In the next set Josh Addo-Carr scored off a kick in general play by Munster on half-way which sat up nicely for ‘the Fox’. Papenhuyzen converted to edge the Storm closer to the half-century.
Within the final five minutes Munster put Papenhuyzen into a huge gap in the midfield, before finding Nicho Hynes on the inside for the Storm’s ninth try. Papenhuyzen’s conversion finished off the scoring for the night.
There was some late drama for the Bulldogs with Thompson pulling up quickly chasing the final try in vain.
Melbourne will be happy to get the two points but disappointed about conceding 18 to the bottom-placed Bulldogs. Papenhuyzen was again the headline act, with his performance putting pressure on Brad Fittler to name him in the starting side for NSW when the side is selected mid-year.
While Canterbury showed plenty of confidence with the ball following Thompson’s try, Trent Barrett will be filthy with how the Storm scored at ease. They need to work on their defence and scrambling better.
Melbourne continue their rivalry with the Sydney Roosters next Friday night at AAMI Park, while the Bulldogs travel to Townsville to take on the equally desperate North Queensland Cowboys.
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Storm 52 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18
Luke Thompson (Bulldogs) – possible hamstring
Match Review Committee
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm) – Grade 1 Contrary Conduct – Early Plea $1600 fine.
Ofahiki Ogden (Bulldogs) – Grade 1 Contrary Conduct – Early Plea $1150 fine.