Storm boys all at sea as the Bulldogs stun Bellamy’s side showing ‘lack of effort’ in major boilover

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The Bulldogs have beaten the Storm 26-12 at AAMI Park, with a first-half onslaught that saw the locals in complete disarray by the half-time break.

After what was undoubtedly a ferocious serve from Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy in the sheds, the home side did level the contest somewhat in the second period, yet it was a brilliant, expansive and polished display from Cameron Ciraldo’s team early, that earned the club’s first two points of the season.

The former assistant under Ivan Cleary at Penrith would have feared the challenge of repairing the Dogs may have been even more difficult than he had imagined after a convincing loss to the Sea Eagles in the opening round, yet the turnaround has been instant, with Melbourne simply shocked by the enthusiasm and energy of the men in blue and white throughout the contest.

Storm still on the bus as the opening whistle blew

Something looked wrong for Craig Bellamy’s men right from the outset at AAMI Park. With significant cattle missing and the opposition clearly up for the fight, Melbourne were caught in the headlights early.

The home side’s defensive line was broken effortlessly and frequently in the opening exchanges.

The Bulldogs kept shifting the ball with gay abandon and the usually ever-present ability of the Storm to laterally match expansive attacks with supreme defensive organisation was simply absent and found wanting.

By the break, Melbourne were 16 behind on the score board and seemingly already out of the contest.

Concerns will grow as to whether Melbourne will be anything like the perennial semi-final contender in 2023 that they have remained for so many seasons, with some suggesting the cracks in the current Storm squad present a challenge that even one of the games greatest coaches will find difficult to overcome.

Hardly a Storm player found form on the night, with Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes trying hard yet mostly unable to begin sets in decent field position in the opening 40 minutes, thanks to the control and execution of the Bulldogs.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 11: Josh Addo-Carr of the Bulldogs runs with the ball during the round two NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury Bulldogs at AAMI Park on March 11, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Josh Addo-Carr runs with the ball against Melbourne. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

However, it was Storm 101 in the second-half, as Bellamy’s troops did exactly what they have done for seemingly forever; grinding away through the middle, controlling the contest through ruck dominance and hitting the edges with flat balls.

Hooker Harry Grant took an ever increasing role in attack when momentum shifted, as Jahrome Hughes and young five-eighth Tyran Wishart began attacking the Bulldogs’ A defender and found metres in behind the markers with elite footwork.

Yet the home side would rue the opening half that made victory near impossible.

Bellamy was blunt post-game about the disappointing first-half.

“A lack of effort, that’s what we pride ourselves on. At the start of the game they were a lot more enthusiastic than us,” he said.

“We were a mile off with some of our effort areas. We were a long way from our best today.”

When asked where things could improve, he replied: “I didn’t see this coming, we had a good week of training……they all know where they can put their efforts in. We didn’t see that today.”

Bulldogs could well and truly be back

There was something immediately intense and impressive about the Bulldogs right from the opening whistle. Jacob Preston’s early try set the tone, whilst Jacob Kiraz is offering more elusiveness in attack for the Dogs than any winger since the great Hazem El Masri.

The early advantage was parlayed in the 26th minute, with Preston once again in behind the line and in space, and with Young Tonumaipea subsequently sent to the sheds for ten minutes, the pattern of the evening appeared to be set.

Improved discipline and control in attack and a dog hungry attitude in defence would have had every Canterbury supporter on their feet shouting, “Dogs of War”, something that despite its mythical origins, has been absent from the majority of Bulldog performances for the last six seasons.

By the time Josh Addo-Carr scored the third try of the game and the first-half scoreboard was extended to 16-0, the Bulldogs had broken the Melbourne line seven times and the home side had missed 29 tackles.

Reed Mahoney continued to mount a serious case as the potential recruit of the season and Jake Averillo played his best ever game in the blue and white.

Quite simply, the Bulldogs appear to have proven that they will be something incredibly different to the impotent and blunt attacking weapon that most teams lapped up with ease in 2022.

Ciraldo was measured after the game, despite the obvious excitement within the club after one of its best performances for some time.

“It’s very pleasing, very proud of the effort the boys put in. I wasn’t surprised by it,” he said.

“We played a style of football that we’ve trained for all pre-season … and that’s the way we are going to play. We are not going to play conservative, we are going to play to our strengths and play a real Bulldogs style of footy.”

Asked about the performance of Jacob Kiraz, he said: “Jacob’s a winner, that’s the way he trains every day. I’m not surprised.”

“I’ve believed the whole time we have been training we are capable of some pretty cool things this year if we put our mind to it and keep playing our style of footy and go after it like we did tonight.”

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