Both the premiership newcomers and the reigning Premiers met at Princes Park winless after the first round of the season. The Bulldogs fullback Tim Winitana was expected to be ruled out during the week, but he was ruled fit and ran on the field at the start of the match.
The Bulldogs kicked off and showed how keen they were in their defence immediately. The first set by the Bulldogs forced a Storm drop-out and on the fourth tackle the Dogs picked up a penalty, 20 metres shy of the Storm line. The repeat set for Canterbury proved fruitful with winger Tia-Kilifi scoring out wide after just 6 minutes. Reynolds’ conversion attempt from the sideline was unsuccessful.
The Storm managed to get a repeat set in the Bulldogs half and Dane Chisholm, after a great run, got close to scoring but lost the ball in a solid tackle. It didn’t take the Bankstown boys long to get out of their danger area and across the halfway line, but a dropped pass by the Bulldogs 10 metres inside the Storm’s half was followed by several sloppy attempts by both sides to regather the ball, before the Bulldogs finally secured possession. The ensuing plays saw both Bulldogs front rowers go agonisingly close to scoring. The Storm had to defend a second and third set on their own line after giving away silly penalties in the play-the-ball area.
In the 14th minute Trent Cutler scored an easy try between the posts after four consecutive sets inside the Storm defensive 30 metre area. Reynolds converted the try and the premiers lead 10-0.
The Bulldogs had held the ball for most of the match at this point; however this second try seemed to be a turning point for the Storm. A nice pass by Widdop sent Makimare through a gap, who ran 30 metres before being brought down 10 metres shy of the try line. Unfortunately for the Storm, Makimare lost the ball in the tackle and the Dogs gave a sigh of relief. Widdop fielded the kick downtown by Reynolds and managed to bust through the right side defence. He kicked infield and the ball was picked up by Fanene who ran 15 metres and scored under the black dot. Kelly converted the try and after 24 minutes the Bulldogs lead had dwindled to 10-6.
Melbourne managed to begin their set inside the Bulldogs half after the restart was kicked out over the dead ball line on the full. Widdop threw a great cut-out pass that put Fanene in for his second try in just five minutes. Kelly missed the conversion attempt and with almost half an hour played, the scores were level.
They didn’t stay level for long. The Storm turned over possession early after the restart. Morrin broke through the Storm left side defence, drew the fullback and got a pass away to Neumann who scored. Reynolds converted and after two minutes with the scores tied, the Dogs took a 16-10 lead.
Both teams were playing on the edges of the ruck and making easy metres out wide. Makimare made another great charge at the Canterbury line before losing the ball again. The Bulldogs launched another raid on the Storm left hand side but without luck. Widdop almost broke through; he managed to pop a pass up to Chisholm who was unable to hold onto the ball.
It took little time for the Bulldogs to push for another try, going very close again before Winitana was pushed into touch in the Storm in-goal. The Storm again turned the ball over cheaply in their own half. A clever chip kick by Reynolds almost resulted in a try if it weren’t for the last second touches of Widdop, who batted the ball dead in-goal.
From the drop-out, the Dogs attempted to push down the Storm left hand side, but a late pass went to ground and was scooped up by Chisholm, who ran 80 metres uncontested and scored under the posts. Kelly converted the try. A minute later the half-time siren sounded, bringing an exciting first half to a close with the scores locked up again at 16 all.
The second half was a tougher affair for the Storm. Rogers went down after a hard collision while attempting a tackle. He left the field very groggily, but managed to return at the end of the match. An early penalty to Melbourne saw them go on the attack immediately. After stepping several Bulldogs defenders, Chisholm fell over trying to change direction and lost the ball, with the try line within reach.
Ball control for the Storm in the second half was a big problem and more often than not, they turned the ball over when deep in their own half, giving Canterbury easy attacking opportunities. Winitana made a great run inside the Storm half, but some great cover defence brought him down. With defence stretched, Koko intercepted a Bulldogs pass and ran 20 metres, before being tackled on the halfway line.
Several sloppy passes and poor ball control by both sides saw possession change hands regularly. An attempted chip kick by Cutler over the try line defence was caught spectacularly by Fanene, preventing another possible Dogs try. A great kick at the end of the set saw the Bulldogs playing from their own try line. After 4 tackles they were still 20 metres shy of halfway before a careless high tackle gifted them a penalty and another shot at the Storm line.
A near try on the Storm’s right hand side was followed by another penalty to the Bulldogs. Fanene attempting to make a tackle fell awkwardly and injured his ankle, bring an end to his great performance. Several short flat passes almost saw the Bulldogs score, but Morrin dropped the final pass and a certain try went begging.
Melbourne were not discouraged though and persisted with playing the game out wide, but with little success. A clever grubber by Cutler into the Storm in-goal was run dead by Widdop. The drop-out was knocked on and it was the Storm who received a let-off. The Storm pushed play left and created an overlap, but the last pass to the winger travelled forward with the line wide open.
After 20 minutes neither team had managed to trouble the scorers. A penalty against the Storm on their 30 metre line for diving at the legs of the Bulldogs kicker, saw Reynolds opt to take the two points. He potted the goal and deadlock was broken.
Just 3 minutes later, fresh reserve Romelo hit a gap in the Storms try line defence and crashed over just to the left of the posts. Cutlers conversion attempt missed and Canterbury extended their lead to 22-16 after 64 minutes.
From the restart, Munro went down with an injury while tackling, but managed to get up and continue playing. The dogs turned the ball over cheaply and then were penalised for stripping the ball. But in the first hit-up, the Storm lost the ball, letting the Dogs off the hook yet again.
In the 66th minute Romelo was charged with illegally lifting in a tackle and, after a brief fracas, was sent to the sin bin. With the Dogs down a player, the Storm went right on the attack. Widdop went close to crossing the line almost immediately. On the next play, Kelly put in a kick for his outside men, but the ball was taken easily by Nanai.
Another penalty against the Storm helped the Bulldogs move out of their half and into the Storm half. Melbourne’s defence held strong once more, before they moved quickly up field, but the good work came undone when Hiitchcox was pushed into touch 25 metres out from the Canterbury line. The Bulldogs turned the ball over cheaply once again giving the Storm another golden opportunity to close the margin. A grubber meant for Duffie on the right wing, just 10 metres out from the Dogs line, goes dead before he gets to the ball and the Dogs escape yet again.
The Bulldogs, within their own half, opted for a different form of attack when Reynolds attempted a chip and chase, but was unable to regather. Chisholm fielded the ball on the halfway and ran to the Dogs 30 metre line before being brought down. The Storm dummy half threw a forward pass and the Dogs again survived.
Canterbury moved up field quickly through some solid and controlled work by their forwards before they received another penalty. Reynolds decides to take a shot at goal and is again successful. The score goes out to 24-16 with just 5 minutes remaining.
Both teams struggled to make any real progress until the last minute when the Storm attempted to score out wide through a Kelly crosskick to Duffie, however the ball sailed out on the full and the siren declared the game over.
The Storm were their own worst enemy, turning over possession too easily too often, preventing them from mounting any serious pressure on the Bulldogs defence. Their youth and speed appeared to trouble the Bulldogs quite often. It was experience alone which got the Canterbury boys home in this close-fought match.
1 – Tim Winitana
2 – Heka Nanai
3 – Shane Neumann
4 – Daniel Rauicava
5 – Junior Tia-Kilifi
6 – Trent Cutler
7 – Josh Reynolds
8 – Tim Browne
9 – Nathan Smith
10 – Danny Williams
11 – Brad Morrin
12 – Jake Foster
13 – Daniel Harrison
14 – Conrad Ta’Akimoeaila
15 – Harlan Alaalatoa
17 – Brent Beddy
18 – Kose Lelei
20 – J. Romelo
1 – Gareth Widdop
2 – Jy Hiitchcox
3 – Willie Isa
4 – Michael Koko
5 – Matt Duffie
6 – Dane Chisholm
7 – Luke Kelly
8 – Sinbad Kali
9 –James Woolford
17 – Rulon Nutira
11 – Louis Fanene
12 – Fred Makimare
13 – Billy Rogers
14 – Anthony Killingbeck
15 – Alan Munro
16 – Dale Langford
10 – Bryan Norrie
18 – Puloa Vaituutuu
WHEN THEY SCORED
6th min – Canterbury 6-0 – Tia-Kilifi try
14th min – Canterbury 10-0 – Cutler try, Reynolds goal
23rd min – Canterbury 10-6 – Fanene try, Kelly goal
28th min – 10 all – Fanene try
31st min – Canterbury 16-10 – Neumann try, Reynolds goal
39th min – 16 all – Chisholm try, Kelly goal
61st min – Canterbury 18-16 – Reynolds goal
64th min – Canterbury 22-16 – Romelo try
76th min – Canterbury 24-16 – Reynolds goal
CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN 26 (Tia-Kilifi, Cutler, Neumann, Romelo tries; Reynolds 4 goals)
MELBOURNE 16 (Fanene 2, Chisholm tries; Kelly 2 goals)
Referee: Matt Hawkins
Half-Time: 16 all
Scrums: Canterbury 14-5
Penalties: Canterbury 9-7
Goal kickers: Reynolds (Canterbury) 4 from 6; Kelly (Melbourne) 2 from 3.
****This match report appeared in Rugby League News Magazine****