BULLDOGS coach Dean Pay will be nothing but proud of his team after a narrow defeat in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, with the Storm scraping home 18 points to 16 in a nail biter.
While the spotlight was on Cameron Smith and his race to top point scorer of all time, it would be the visiting Bulldogs who would shock everyone.
Lachlan Lewis led the side around the park and laid on the perfect face ball for Kerrod Holland to score out wide in just the fourth minute. Rhyse Martin converted for a 6 point lead.
A tidy, organised and hungry ‘Dogs team took it to Melbourne in the opening half, outplaying their much more fancied opponents and looking very much like a semi-finals side even with the youngest spine in more than 40 years.
To make matters worse, the Bulldogs lost Dylan Napa after 20-odd minutes with a syndesmosis injury that threatens to sideline him for 4 to 8 weeks.
Try as they might, the Storm couldn’t breach the Bulldogs and instead it was young pup and new fan favourite Jayden Okunbor turning heads with a rampaging line break that left Cameron Smith on the turf.
He would also touch down for his first try in first grade, with a slick back line move capped off by a Lewis tap on seeing Okunbor cross in the corner. Martin again converted from the sideline for a 12-0 lead.
But as they do the Storm built momentum and eventually looked set to score through Will Chambers, who was rightfully ruled to have been taken out by Reimis Smith. Melbourne were awarded a penalty try and closed the gap to 6 points at the break.
A HIA to second rower Corey Harawira-Naira saw him dazed and unlikely to return, but somehow he did as the second half began.
Momentum was swaying and on the back of some penalties the home side crashed over next to the posts through Tui Kamikamica. Smith’s conversion saw the scores level at 12-all.
It was all the Storm from then on, with the Bulldogs doing well not to be blown off the park – something that should impress the Bulldogs faithful.
Cameron Munster made it look easy when he darted through from the back of the scrum, with 10 minutes to go, but it was far from over as the Bulldogs threw everything at their opponents.
It paid dividends when Will Hopoate sailed high and came down with the ball in the 78th minute, eventually falling to Reimis Smith to score. The tough conversion was missed by Martin, leaving Melbourne two point winners and thanking their lucky stars, while the blue and whites have a lot to look forward to if recent performances are anything to go by.