Storm exact Belmore revenge in big wet
Melbourne have withstood a torrid examination at a flooded Belmore Oval to open their 2017 Telstra Premiership campaign with a gritty 12-6 win in torrential rain – though it was dampened by an injury to prop Jesse Bromwich.
Despite the Storm exploding out of the blocks in the opening minutes, rocketing to a 10-0 lead in seven minutes in much the way the Bulldogs did to them in the corresponding fixture two years ago, they didn't score another try in the final 73 minutes of the game.
They spent much of that time defending, with Canterbury finishing with a 55 per cent possession count for the match.
The blue and whites' supposedly revamped attack looked much like the stuttering 2016 version, though their attempts to spread the ball wide in pouring rain in the second half did little to advance their cause.
New Bulldogs recruit Brenko Lee was among his team's best, looking dangerous in attack at right centre, while local hero Josh Reynolds had some great touches but was complicit in their over-adventurous play in the second half.
Melbourne, down to 16 men after 10 minutes as Bromwich left the field with a suspected dislocated thumb, worked hard for their win despite not looking much more dangerous with ball in hand than their opponents for much of the game.
New winger Josh Addo-Carr had a whale of a game with a match-high 202 metres and two line breaks, while fullback Cameron Munster was placed on report for a trip during the second half.
The Storm had exploded out of the blocks to start the match, ambushing their opponents much the way they themselves were ambushed last time these two teams met at Belmore but were only able to lead by 12-6 at the break.
Cheyse Blair scored off the back of a Josh Addo-Carr line break in just the third minute while Suliasi Vunivalu pounced on a Cooper Cronk bomb to score in the sixth minute.
The Dogs got into the arm-wrestle from there, helped by the absence of Jesse Bromwich, and scored the only other try of the half through Josh Reynolds off a lovely Brenko Lee inside ball.
Punches thrown in a fracas saw Will Chambers and Sam Kasiano finish the half in the sin bin. Despite being starved of the ball early, Canterbury finished with 54 per cent of the first half possession to carry some momentum into the break.
They continued to have the better of things immediately after the break but their momentum was stalled when the heavens opened about 13 minutes into the half.
The Storm played slightly smarter wet weather football with Canterbury trying a bit too much and coming up with errors in their opponent's half although there was a testing period for Melbourne about 15 minutes from full-time when they had to survive repeat sets at their own line but were able to hold strong.
From there the game was largely played between the two 20-metre lines with further Dogs errors and resolute Storm defence doing enough to keep the second half scoreless with Melbourne holding on for a gritty 12-6 win.
Melbourne Storm 12 (Blair, Vunivalu tries; Smith 2 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 6 (Reynolds try; Holland goal) at Belmore Sportsground. Half time: Storm 12-6. Crowd: 8,712.