Canterbury-Bankstown 18 Melbourne 36
After months of soul searching, rebuilding and new appointments, what matters most to Bulldogs’ fans finally arrived on Saturday night.
It was a night of firsts. Optus Stadium hosted its first rugby league matches and with a new fullback, half, captain, coach and front-rower, it was hard to know where the Bulldogs were in terms of preparation and combinations.
The overall performance showed the faithful that there is much for which to look forward and despite the finality of the scoreline, the Dogs were in the game for a long time.
Let’s not kid ourselves however, the Storm outclassed the blue and white at key moments and Cameron Munster cracked the fragile defence far too often and easily, yet the freedom and direction in attack that the Bulldogs displayed was much improved on what we have seen in recent years.
Kieran Foran looked impressive at times and his brilliance in straightening an attack is just what coach Dean Pay was looking for. Moses Mbye seemed to enjoy the extra space at full-back and his elusive kick return led to the first try of the night.
Aaron Woods racked up some numbers with 14 runs and 30 tackles and David Klemmer and Josh Jackson slipped straight back into form, both statistically and from an impact point of view.
Mbye’s kick return gave the Dogs an early lead before the Storm struck back quickly and predictably with Ryley Jacks’ try. An Mbye penalty goal reclaimed the lead before Curtis Scott scored on the back of a Marcelo Montoya error and an awful dropped kick from Matt Frawley in the lead-up.
Foran played a hand in another four-pointer after a Storm error, as Brett Morris went over to level the match up midway through the first half. Sadly, leaky defence and poor errors in critical areas of the field hurt the Dogs and Melbourne put the foot flat to the floor, scoring twice and taking a 24-12 lead into the break.
With so much made about developing a more potent and effective attack in 2018, Dean Pay may focus a little more on defence this week, with the game played far too open for the Bulldogs’ liking.
Matt Frawley’s try fifteen minutes into the second-half was as close as the Dogs would come to claiming the two-points and the Storm speedsters put on two late tries to stifle any ideas of a dream start to the new coach’s reign.
All in all, the signs were good with more direction in attack and the new signings all contributing. Matt Frawley and Marcelo Montoya will need support to rebuild confidence after poor and costly errors and the back-row and bench need to ensure they are making a bigger impact to compliment the rep stars up front.
Things get no easier next week and a Friday night appointment with the Roosters looms as a real challenge.
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Not a perfect start by any means yet the team will only get better as the combinations improve.
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