The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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On an emotional day that saw the Melbourne faithful farewell departing players Stephen Kearney, Rodney Howe and Kirk Reynoldson, the Storm handled the wet conditions better than the Bulldogs, blowing the game wide open with two second half tries.
Early rain made the going tough for both sides but the Storm stamped their authority on the match midway through the second half when Bulldogs winger Matt Utai was sin-binned for a professional foul on Scott Hill.
It proved to be the turning point in the match and from there the Storm out-muscled and outgunned their highly fancied opponents, reversing a trend that has seen the Bulldogs win the past nine matches over Melbourne.
With the Storm scheduled to close out the regular season on the road, today?s match was regarded as Melbourne?s final home game of the year and the perfect way for Melbourne to farewell Kearney, Howe and Reynoldson.
Kearney will head to English Super League club Hull next year, Howe is expected to retire while Reynoldson will join Newcastle.
All three were given the best possible send off by the Melbourne crowd as the Storm secured its place in the NRL?s top eight whilst maintaining its push for a top four finish.
?I don?t want to say we didn?t talk about it because we did, it was mentioned during the week,? Storm coach Craig Bellamy said of Kearney, Howe and Reynoldson?s imminent departure.
?Steve and ?Howey? have done everything basically you can do in the game. Those are the sorts of guys that have set the culture here and I couldn?t think of two more professional players in their actions off the field as well.
?Obviously ?Reyno? has been very good for this place as well, he hasn?t been here as long but it?s sad that he is going.
?The players owed those guys something today, they didn?t owe them a win but they owed them to go out there and put their best foot forward and play with a bit of passion and commitment, and I think they did that.?
Kearney was delighted with the win against a side that has become the Storm?s bogey team in recent years.
?I couldn?t have asked for more from every single player on the field today, it was fantastic,? Kearney said.
?The way we played today was great but I think we?ve got to put into perspective who we were playing.?
The game was an arm-wrestle for the first ten minutes with both teams fighting hard to gain the upper hand.
The Storm finally managed to break through the Bulldogs? defence as centre Steven Bell crashed over in the 13th minute after a darting run from dummy half.
Bulldogs five-eighth Braith Anasta answered immediately and put his team in front five minutes later when he took a clean cutout ball from halfback Brett Sherwin before skipping around David Kidwell to score under the posts.
Halfway through the term Bulldogs second-rower Willie Mason was penalised for offside and Matt Orford?s successful conversion levelled the scores at 6-all. Orford then slotted a second penalty goal just four minutes from halftime, handing his team an 8-6 advantage at the break.
The second half began much the same way as the first with both teams vying for dominant field position.
The arm-wrestle continued until the 65th minute when Orford picked up the scraps of a wayward Bulldogs pass before running 70 metres only to be mowed down by some frantic Bulldogs defence. Scrambling desperately, Utai?s tackle held Hill down for too long and the Bulldogs winger was given ten minutes in the sin-bin by referee Sean Hampstead. A penalty followed and Orford?s boot put the Storm up 10-6.
Just three minutes later a perfectly weighted chip kick from Orford saw Bell regain possession for the home side before setting up Hill for the Storm?s second try of the match.
Five minutes from fulltime Orford and Bell combined again following another well-placed kick that ended in Bell offloading for Dallas Johnson who strolled in under the posts untouched.
Upon Utai?s return the visitors managed to claim a consolation try in the final minute.
DETAILS STORM 22 Tries: Bell 1, Hill 1, Johnson 1 Goals: Orford 5/6 (3 penalty goals)
BULLDOGS 12 Tries: Anasta 1, Utai 1 Goals: El Masri 2/2
For further information contact
James Avery: Phone (03) 9421 3222 Mobile: 0411 623 024 [email protected]