Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
34 hours ago
Fulltime score: Round 17 Canterbury Bulldogs 6 v Melbourne Storm 33
The Melbourne Storm have thrashed the Canterbury Bulldogs 33-6 at the Sydney Showground this evening.
In what was a very evenly contest first half of football, the second half proved to be a nightmare for the Dogs as they capitulated meekly to the Storm, who made it look easy by the latter stages of the second half with some long range tries through paper thin defence.
Outstanding storm fullback Billy Slater gave it to the Queensland selectors by turning in a man of the match performance, which included two excellent tries while Matt Geyer and Matt Orford also had fine games this evening.
The Bulldogs title defence is now in chaos after the loss and if the Warriors beat the Cowboys, the Dogs slip back to 12th position on the NRL ladder as we enter the latter stages of the 2005 competition.
What would be most worrying for Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes was the performance of halfback Brent Sherwin. He was lost without Braith Anasta and was unable to carry the team on his narrow shoulders, with several crucial errors that cost the Dogs dearly in the second half.
With Anasta set to leave the Dogs, they have a lot of work to do in the halves for next season but all this talk is premature because while ever the Bulldogs are a chance in this competition, it would take a very brave man to write them off and I am not that man.
Melbourne on the other hand are closing in on the top four and with Manly looking less and less likely to secure a home semi, the Storm are poised to pounce and with their massive points differential, they are an excellent chance at finishing in the top four if they can maintain their good forum until the end of the season.
Scorers: CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 6 Tries: Phelps Goals: El Masri 1/2 MELBOURNE STORM 33 Tries: Inglis 2, Slater 2, Turner Goals: Orford 5/6 Field Goal: Orford
Sydney Showground Crowd: 7,414 Referee: Sean Hampstead Half time: Storm 14-6
Live commentary: 1st min: We are underway at the Showground.
2nd min: TRY - Storm. Greg Inglis gets the Storm's opening try after only 90 seconds. An explosive start by the visitors. Conversion successful. Storm 6-0.
15th min: No score but both sides have been unable to complete their sets and both have had their chances early but alas, no more points at this stage.
16th min: TRY - Bulldogs. Cameron Phelps gets his first ever try in first grade with a four pointer in the corner which is duly converted by Hazem El Masri. 6 all.
20th min: NEWS - Roy Asotasi into the dressing rooms requiring attention for a dislocated finger.
24th min: El Masri misses a simple penalty conversion and fails to get the Dogs into the lead.
28th min: The Dogs have made sevral mistakes after enjoying the wealth of posession over the past ten minutes but nothing to show for it.
31st min: PENALTY GOAL - Storm. Matt Orford gets the Storm in front with less than ten minutes remaining until half time. Storm 8-6.
33rd min: PENALTY GOAL - Storm. Matt Orford pushes the Storm a further two points in front. Storm 10-6.
38th min: TRY - Storm. Greg Inglis gets a double and exposes a huge weakness in the Dogs outside backs, lack of size. Conversion unsuccessful. Storm 14-6.
HALF TIME: The Storm hold an eight point lead at half time but are by no means across the line in this match. With the outcome of the match crucial to both sides, expect the second half to be played at a high intensity with plenty of desperation.
41st min: We are underway in the second half.
50th min: No change in the score line bu the Dogs have bombed a few opportunities and Brent Sherwin is struggling in the absence of Braith Anasta.
61st min: No change in the score but time is starting to work against the Dogs. They have had plenty of possession so far in the second half but have been unable to capitalise and now have a big job ahead of them to win this game.
65th min: The Dogs are applying the blow torch but the Storm are holding on...just!
66th min: Brideson loses the ball inches from the line to let Melbourne off the hook again.
70th min: TRY - Storm. Glen Sturner scores after Orford made a great pickup off the deck to give the Storm a rare win over the Dogs and the loss for the Dogs throws their finals campaign into chaos. Conversion successful. Storm 20-6.
72nd min: TRY - Storm. Slater in under the posts from a long way out and now the Storm are really rubbing it in. Conversion successful. Storm 26-6.
74th min: FIELD GOAL - Storm. Not really necessary but it all helps in the for and against columns. Storm 27-6.
78th min: TRY - Storm. Orford grubbers for Slater and Slater does what he does best and that's make it look oh so easy. It's getting very ugly for the Dogs now. Conversion successful. Storm 33-6.
FULL TIME: Melbourne have run out convincing winners over a very disappointing Canterbury side who look devoid of ideas and if the Warriors defeat the Cowboys, the Bulldogs drop back to 12th spot on the NRL ladder and from there it is a very long way back to the finals. Melbourne are now within sight of the top four and although they palyed well tonight, they are still an enigma and need to play consistent footy every week to be a threat.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - Billy Slater (Storm) 2 - Matt Geyer (Storm) 1 - Matt Orford (Storm) -----------------------------------------