Result the same from 2012 grand final but premiers made to work for the win.
The Melbourne Storm have maintained their unbeaten start to the NRL season after outlasting a determined Canterbury Bulldogs outfit 22-18 at AAMI Park.
Premiers Melbourne looked to have blown the game wide open in the second half when they scored two tries in five minutes, before being forced to watch their lead shrink to just an unconverted try with time running out.
Again the big three from the Storm, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk starred for the home side.
However, man-of-the-match Slater will have a nervous wait after being put on report in the 43rd minute for a boot to David Klemmer’s head when jumping to take a bomb.
“I haven’t really had a chance to look at it (incident) yet, I just go up for the footy and try and protect myself as best I can, that’s all I’m doing, so we’ll see what comes from it,” Slater said after the game.
The Storm fullback paid tribute unsung players as part of the Storm win such as Jesse Bromwich who he said was instrumental in laying the platform for the rest of the team.
In a game that was fitting of a replay of last year’s grand final, both sides took turns in trying to land knock out blows for much of the first half.
But it was the home side who opened their account first when Ryan Hinchliffe latched onto a short pass from Cronk from just five metres out in a classy movement to see them lead 6-0.
Canterbury failed to capitalise on its scoring chances against the normally watertight Storm defence, which rushed up and cut down the amount of time the Dogs had with the ball.
Dury Low knocked on a grubber kick at the back for the Dogs with Matthew Duffie looking set to score before being stopped by the defence.
But the resulting play saw the Storm shift the ball to the left with Mahe Fonua scoring his third try in the top grade, after surviving closer inspection by the video ref to stretch the lead to 10 at the break.
The Bulldogs needed to be the first team to score after half-time if they were to run down a Storm side that has prided itself on defending leads.
The visitors got the ideal chance when Slater was booked for his shot on Klemmer, with Josh Reynolds putting in a clever chip kick over the top to find a diving Sam Perrett in the corner for his second try of the season.
With Melbourne’s lead just four, Cronk looked to have been robbed of a try after he split the Bulldogs defence and crashed over with officials checking interference by Bryan Norrie who was 20 metres away from the play.
Amazingly they cancelled the try, leaving the Melbourne players furious.
However, the Storm scored the try they rightfully thought was theirs when Matt Duffie, a former junior high jump champion in New Zealand, showed off his pedigree to latch onto a perfectly weighted Cronk chip kick to score out wide to make the score to 16-6.
Despite Bulldogs fullback Low stopping his opposite number Slater after a 50m run off the kick off, the Storm scored through Lagi Setu when the Canterbury defence was on its heels to see the score blow out to 22-6.
Off the back of a penalty, the Bulldogs scored through Krisnan Inu to make the score 22-16 to give them a glimmer of hope with 10 minutes remaining.
The comeback was on when a sensational movement down the left-hand side by the Bulldogs saw the ball travel 70m, and a blazing Josh Morris run set up Kris Keating to see them draw back to within four points with as many minutes remaining.
However, the understrength Bulldogs came up just short of avenging their loss to the Storm in last year’s decider as time ran out.