In a game which turned into a defensive dogfight, it was right the Canterbury Bulldogs took home a vital win from their trip to Melbourne on Saturday night.
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After taking the lead in the early minutes of the second half, the Bulldogs held the advantage for the rest of the match to beat the Storm 6-4 and keep touch with the sides battling for the minor premiership.
The Storm had plenty of chances to score the winning try but were caught short by their own decision making or brilliant tackling from the Bulldogs.
A penalty on Bulldogs centre Tim Lafai for pushing Marika Koroibete out of bounds with three minutes remaining gave Storm captain Cameron Smith the chance to tie the scores with a kick from the left touchline but he pushed his shot wide and the Bulldogs recovered it.
Smith created the first serious scoring chance with his side close to the line putting in a grubber kick which he attempted to chase but appeared to be tripped by Bulldogs lock Greg Eastwood. With no whistle from the referee the ball went back to the Bulldogs.
Eastwood almost set up his side's first try with a surprise chip kick looking set to bounce into the path of his teammates before it bounced out of bounds.
A well-worked Storm attack in the 12th minute put Mahe Fonua in place to score but two Bulldogs defenders held him up on the goal-line.
Storm halfback Cooper Cronk showed just what the side had missed while he was out injured when his perfectly timed pass hit Kevin Proctor on the chest on 16 minutes and the big Kiwi did the rest powering past the last defender and in for a try making it 4-0. Proctor’s girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child during the week so the try added to the forward’s special occasion.
For all the Storm’s attacking chances, they couldn’t add the scores then coughed up the ball 30 metres from their own goal line but the Bulldogs’ sloppy passing killed off their opportunity.
Three more times the Storm put dangerous kicks towards the Bulldogs’ goal line but each time the visitors managed to take the ball away at the last possible moment.
For all their scoring opportunities the Storm had nothing to show from almost 20 minutes of dominance heading into half-time with the home side up 4-0.
The Bulldogs started the second half with precision attacks repeatedly peppering the Storm’s defensive line before an offload from James Graham found its way to man mountain Sam Kasiano who bull-dozed his way to the line, reaching out to score.
Graham had copped jeers throughout the night as Storm fans still remember his notorious bite on Billy Slater in the 2012 grand final. Trent Hodkinson’s kick from in front made it 6-4 to the Bulldogs after 46 minutes.
Hodkinson’s boot continued to trouble the Storm forcing two repeat goal-line drop outs. But Smith tried a short kick on the second occasion and it miraculously paid off rolling just over the minimum distance where the Storm took possession and ran the ball back into the Bulldogs half.
After all the Bulldogs’ possession, the Storm finally made their first meaningful attack of the second half in the 65th minute with Ben Roberts' grubber kick looking certain to be touched down by Koroibete only for Bulldogs fullback Mitch Brown to drive in and knock it into touch.
The Storm managed to reach the try line twice in the last 10 minutes but each time desperate Bulldogs defence kept them from making the final pass or final thrust and score the go-ahead try.
The Storm host Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park next Saturday night while the Bulldogs play Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium next Sunday.