THE Bulldogs underscored their premiership credentials with a convincing victory over fellow heavyweights Melbourne at Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium.
The Bulldogs fully deserved their win, they ran hard, controlled the ball in damp conditions and weren’t afraid to try things. It was smart, skilful footy played at speed. Almost the complete game.
Melbourne looked tired and didn’t have a lot of luck. Still a competition favourite but they’re certainly one of a pack rather than the standout they’ve been in seasons past.
The Game Swung When… Brett Kimmorley copped a cork in the 8th minute and the ’Dogs lost their playmaker. But Michael Ennis, Daniel Holdsworth and Andrew Ryan filled the breach brilliantly, their attack down the left opening up the Storm all game.
Cooper Cronk was banished to the sin bin in the 32nd minute for a professional foul and the Bulldogs put six points on them. In the 38th minute Greg Inglis had a try disallowed by the video ref that would have made the score 14-6 and given them a sniff.
They did score first after half-time with a try to Will Chambers but impressive Bulldogs centre Darryl Millard scored minutes later to snuff out the Storm resurgence. Second-rower Gary Warburton went over with 10 minutes left and the Storm were so much cactus.
Who Was Hot… The Bulldogs had quality performers right across the park.
Luke Patten (129 metres, two tackle breaks) ran elusively from fullback and showed a clean pair of heels.
Ennis (117 receives!) provided slick service out of dummy-half and took on a lot of the kicking after Kimmorley went off. Was also rugged in defence (23 tackles) and set up a try.
Holdsworth (42 touches and a try assist) had a super game; his passing was excellent and kicking spot-on.
The Bulldogs looked great down the left, the ball moving slickly through the halves and out to impressive centre Millard and emerging wing talent Bryson Goodwin. Throw in the broken-field running of Patten and you’ve got a pretty slick set of backs. They support each other, aren’t afraid to have a go and aren’t short of speed.
Hazem El Masri’s perfect five-from-five, while not unexpected, is a real fillip for the Bulldogs. It gives the side lift to know four-pointers will become six-pointers 9.75 times out of ten. Best. Goal-kicker. Ever.
And Jamal Idris (four tackle breaks, 110 metres) is a big, fast and supremely dangerous athlete.
Cameron Smith was great for the Storm with 46 tackles and six tackle breaks. Dallas Johnson was strong for the Storm (43 tackles) while Billy Slater was fast and elusive and broke eight tackles. Anthony Quinn broke 10 tackles.
Who Was Not… Slater blew an early try-scoring opportunity by trying to cut out Greg Inglis and hit winger Anthony Quinn… without warning Inglis that was the plan. And it wasn’t a good one anyway. The plan should be to give Inglis the ball. All the time.
Overall the Storm looked tired and certainly not as sharp as their opponents.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Millard picked up a bad Bryson Goodwin pass he had no right to. Later sent Goodwin away down the wing with a brilliant flick pass in the tackle.
In the 14th minute Brett Finch threw a fine cut-out ball to Inglis who brushed off Idris with his trademark fend. But wider out was El Masri who swarmed onto the bigger man like a rash.
Bad Boys… It was handbags at 10 paces between Ennis and Slater early in the piece after the Queenslander riled ‘The Menace’ with a sly clip around the chops. Ennis reacted as Ennis does, and the Storm got the penalty.
Elsewhere Storm winger Anthony Quinn was later charged by the match review committee with an “unnecessary hold/grip on leg”. Hmm. He’ll miss a game if he cops and early guilty plea.
Refs Watch… Cronk was given 10 minutes in the bin by Gerard Sutton after he’d taken out Goodwin without the ball. The penalty was right, though video referee Bill Harrigan might have awarded a penalty try.
Harrigan later ruled ‘No Try’ on Inglis when he and Goodwin both dived simultaneously for the ball near the in-goal. Benefit of the Doubt, surely, Bill?
Slater was ruled offside after a chip-kick by Smith that was line-ball but looked offside because Slater is very fast.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Darryl Millard (Bulldogs): Carved the Storm to ribbons on the left with 18 runs and 140 metres, and scored the game-breaking try; 2 points – Daniel Holdsworth (Bulldogs): The team’s general; got his team in the right spots and set runners free; 1 point – Michael Ennis (Bulldogs): Slick service from dummy-half and typical “Menace” in defence.
Bulldogs 26 (A Ryan, B Goodwin, D Millard, G Warburton tries; H El Masri 5 goals) def Storm 10 (W Chambers 2 tries; C Smith goal) at Bluetongue Stadium. Crowd: 10,923.