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March 22 2013 6 22 /03 /March /2013 04:45

Storm survive late Bulldogs scare

Game clincher ... Matt Duffie celebrates scoring the Storm s fourth try.
Storm fuming over Slater report


The Melbourne Storm had to endure a late Canterbury Bulldogs surge as the defending NRL champions held on 22-18 in their grand final rematch at AAMI Park on Thursday night.


Down 22-6 after an hour, the Bulldogs scored two late tries through Krisnan Inu and Kris Keating to make for a more nervous finish than Melbourne fans would have liked.


But despite a late set of six deep into Melbourne territory, the visitors could not find the decisive move as the Storm defence held firm.


Billy Slater was controversially put on report for a kick on David Klemmer early in the second half. The full-back's foot trailed as he went up for the ball to catch the Bulldogs replacement flush in the face.


But Klemmer insisted Slater's contact with him was accidental.


"It was a good effort by the boys, we're just unlucky not to come home with the win," Klemmer told Grandstand.


"I don't know, I just went to fetch the ball and Billy just copped me with a boot to the throat and knocked the wind out of me. It was accidental. It was just a moment."


The video referee deemed Slater to have kicked Klemmer as referee Ben Cummins put the full-back on report for dangerous play.


Cummins told Storm skipper Cameron Smith that Slater kicked the Bulldog "before anything else happened."

Slater has already made an early guilty plea to a dangerous contact charge this season after knocking the Cowboys' Antonio Winterstein out in round two.


After the match, Ryan Hoffman - having endured a tough outing to mark his 200th NRL game - praised his side's ability to hold on against the Bulldogs' attacking talent.


"I couldn't be prouder of the performance we put in tonight," he told Grandstand.


"To defend like we did on our try line and to keep repelling such a good attacking side like the Bulldogs, I'm really proud of it.


"We had to dig in deep, it's our third tough game in a row. We've got another one next week against the Broncos so we'll look after ourselves over the weekend and get ready for another big game."


The Storm's Ryan Hinchcliffe opened the scoring in the first half after making a line-break deep in Bulldogs territory to score beneath the posts on 21 minutes.


Melbourne then went wide from the scrum feed 14 minutes later to allow Mahe Fonua to score in the far left corner to send the Storm into double figures without reply.


The Bulldogs responded with a Sam Perrett try as the winger jumped highest for a Josh Reynolds bomb to touch down in the right-hand corner.


But Cooper Cronk showed two could play at the kicking game as his high ball found Matthew Duffie on the sideline to score, before Lagi Setu looked to have wrapped things up with another four-pointer three minutes later.


But the Storm defence proved a soft touch late on as Inu stole in to score as the Bulldogs swept the ball right after four phases of play to bring the deficit down to 10 points with eight minutes to go.


The momentum was truly with the visitors as Josh Morris broke from his own half down the sideline, showing amazing pace to beat his man, before eventually finding Keating to score.


Inu then broke free at the death to force another set of six deep in Storm territory, but the Bulldogs' attack could not capitalise before the final siren.

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