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The Bulldogs celebrate one of four first half tries in their elimination final win over the Storm in Melbourne.
A blistering first half display has sent Canterbury marching to a semi-final berth after a commanding 28-4 win over Melbourne at AAMI Park.

In-form Lafai goes from strength to strength
Bellamy embarrassed by performance

The Bulldogs put the contest to bed by halftime, racing out to a 24-nil lead to set up a date with Manly next week with a preliminary final spot against Penrith the prize.

It wasn't all smooth sailing for the blue and whites with centre Josh Morris and bench prop David Klemmer placed on report, and interchange forward Pat O'Hanlon stretchered off in the second half with a suspected broken leg.

Tim Lafai was the hat-trick hero and also led all comers for metres gained with 178, while James Graham (143 metres and 34 tackles) was named the man of the match after an outstanding afternoon both with and without the ball.

But they had plenty of help in an all-round team performance that would have even forced coach Des Hasler to crack a rare smile.

Melbourne bow out of the finals without a win for a second straight season and will be left to pick up the pieces after a fourth consecutive defeat to the Bulldogs.

With 14 incomplete sets and 13 errors, the Storm looked a shadow of the side that ranked No.1 in the competition in each of those stats during the season.

The loss also marked favourite son Ryan Hoffman’s final game for Melbourne with the veteran set to join the Warriors next season.

Canterbury was the first to strike, scoring within six minutes of the kick off following a Storm miscommunication. No Storm player flew for a Michael Ennis high ball, allowing Tim Lafai to knock the ball into the waiting arms of Greg Eastwood to stroll over.

Tony Williams nearly handed Melbourne a gift after allowing the restart to bounce sideways into touch but a resolute Bulldogs defence held firm.

Call it finals nerves but Melbourne looked shaky and on 16 minutes would find themselves 12-nil down.

Handed a set of six 20 metres from the line from a Will Chambers knock-on, Skillful big man James Graham turned provider with a deft pass to Trent Hodkinson who walked through a gaping hole in the Storm defence.

The travelling Doggies contingent were in dreamland and they would be pinching themselves even harder just two minutes later.

Tim Lafai pounced to intercept a wayward Ben Roberts pass and with 60 metres of clear paddock ahead of him, galloped away as Canterbury stretched the lead out to 18.

It was an inspired start by the visitors who made 459 metres in the opening 20 minutes of play and they weren’t finished yet.

Handed possession on halfway by yet another Chambers knock on, the Bulldogs moved the ball deep into Storm territory with glaring ease. Two quick passes metres from the line was all it took to leave the Storm defence found wanting yet again as Lafai crossed for his second of the game to send his side into halftime with a 24-nil lead.

After a picture-perfect first half, things did no start quite so brightly for Canterbury.

David Klemmer was placed on report in three minutes of the restart and Storm finally had their first try, as Sisa Waqa rose to gather and ground a Cooper Cronk kick.

On 46 minutes, Storm fans thought the comeback was on as Waqa crossed again, this time under the posts, only to have it dashed with the video referee ruling no-try for a Jesse Bromwich knock on much earlier in the lead-up.

That ruling and a Billy Slater knock on a minute later seemed to knock the stuffing out of any Storm resurgence that was brewing.

In the 58th minute Pat O’Hanlon was stretchered off the field and looked to be in a significant amount of pain with a leg injury.

Melbourne’s afternoon sunk to a new low in the 61st minute with Slater placed on report for a late knee on Josh Reynolds.

They say bad things happen in three and it did, with Josh Morris following Slater into the book a minute later for an arm-pull in a tackle on Waqa.

The final score of the day proved the perfect summary of the contest.

In the 75th minute, Eastwood intercepted a Cooper Cronk pass on his own 20 metre line, broke through a Ryan Hoffman tackle and played the pass to Lafai to record his hat-trick on a memorable afternoon for the blue and white.

Canterbury Bulldogs 28 (Lafai 3, Eastwood, Hodkinson tries; Hodkinson 4 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 4 (Waqa try) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 19,230.
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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