Melbourne have dished out their own version of humble pie to NRL competition leaders Canterbury, the Bulldogs tasting their first defeat of the season in a 30-16 loss to the Storm at AAMI Park.
The Storm said they were embarrassed by their performance in a heavy defeat by the Cowboys last round but on Monday night it was the Bulldogs who were left red-faced.
Billy Slater was at his blistering best, with his bright orange boots more like jet-shoes.
The Test fullback was seemingly everywhere as he constantly threatened the defence and had a hand in at least two of the Storm’s five tries.
The home side took just 49 seconds to make their loss in Townsville a distant memory with winger Matt Duffie scoring his first of two tries for the night after Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba tried to prevent a Cooper Cronk 40:20 by batting the ball back in-field.
While the Bulldogs stayed in the game with a try by former Storm winger Steve Turner in the 12th minute, they didn’t get across the line again until the 57th minute through skipper Andrew Ryan.
They were unlucky not to score in the 29th minute, which would have tied up the game, when young centre Tim Lafai touched down at the end of a beautifully-worked move.
However video referee Chris Ward ruled that Jake Foster had taken Cronk out of play.
It proved a crucial decision when just two minutes later the Storm were in for their second try.
Cronk kicked a high ball into the in-goal and Slater climbed AFL-style above winger Bryson Goodwin and hit the ball back, which was pounced on by Kevin Proctor.
Rampaging second-rower Adam Blair and five-eighth Gareth Widdop then combined to put centre Dane Nielsen through for his side to take a 18-4 lead to the sheds.
The Bulldogs were starved of ball early in the second half as the home side added a further two tries, through Duffie and reserve prop Jesse Bromwich, which gave them a match-winning 30-4 lead in the 51st minute.
As well as Ryan’s effort the Bulldogs showed their spirit to get across the tryline again, with five-eighth Kris Keating scoring off a Lafai ball but it was too little too late.
Bulldogs skipper Ryan said his side paid the price for poor ball control, particularly in the first half.
“They can throw a lot at you and we helped their cause,” he said.
“We were only at about 40 or 50 per cent in our completion so when you give them that much pill it makes it very hard to win a half of footy.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said his players showed commitment and a great attitude from the opening whistle.
“Last week we didn’t respect possession and looked for short cuts to score points and get field position,” Bellamy said.
“We were determined to make amends for our performance and the result was a good one for us.”