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Dogs back to Belmore and back in title hunt

By Stuart Honeysett

June 30, 2015 - The Australian

Canterbury 20 Melbourne 4

Maybe the Bulldogs should go back to Belmore more often. A lot more. Canterbury made a triumphant return to their spiritual home, Belmore Oval, last night after blowing Melbourne off the park thanks to a tryscoring blitz in the first 14 minutes.

The game was sold out four hours before kick-off with more than 16,764 fans cramming into the suburban ground for the party.

In a welcome boost for the NRL amid constant gripes over the dreaded Monday timeslot, it was the biggest crowd this season for a Monday night, easily eclipsing the 14,126 fans who turned up to watch St George Illawarra and South Sydney in round nine.

It had been 17 years since there was a first grade game played at Belmore Oval -- the last match was an 8-4 win over the Storm in 1998 -- and the Bulldogs turned on a display which suggested they are more than a chance of giving the premiership a shake this season.

Bulldogs captain Aiden Tolman said the crowd had played a part in helping the team turn in its most complete performance of the season.

"There's not too many games you get to run out in front of 16,500 people and it sound like 40,000," Tolman said. "It was a great atmosphere. It's one of those games -- there's only a few games in your career where you can run out and it's something really special.

"It's our spiritual home, this is where we belong and the players that have played here over the years I think it was something really special and I can't wait to play here in a few weeks' time (against Cronulla). It's going to be just as good.

"I think we've been patchy all year and coming into this week we focused on trying to put in a good performance, an 80-minute performance. They were missing a few players but I think overall that was our best performance of the year and to keep them to that score line against a good Melbourne team is very hard to do." There were plenty of famous faces who turned up to watch the game including Canterbury premiership player Chris Anderson -- who coached the Storm in the 1998 game against his brother-in-law and former teammate Steve Folkes -- Steve Mortimer, Terry Lamb and Paul Langmack.

There was plenty of support for hometown hero Josh Reynolds -- the only local junior in the squad -- with the crowd chanting his name midway through the second half to get him off the bench and on to the field. Reynolds turned around and clapped them for their support. He came on in the second half and they were still chanting his name well after the game had finished.

It wasn't just pleasing for the Bulldogs. NSW coach Laurie Daley would have been happy with what he saw from a State of Origin viewpoint, with plenty of his players standing up before the decider to be played in Brisbane next week.

Halfback Trent Hodkinson turned in his best game of the season, having a hand in two tries. Prop David Klemmer was strong after charging for 183m. Twin brothers Brett and Josh Morris both ended up with their names in the try-scorers' sheet. Brett also came up with a big tackle on Melbourne winger Marika Koroibete late in the second half to save a certain try.

The party kept going well after the full-time siren with the team heading towards the sea of blue and white supporters on the Terry Lamb Family Hill to sing the team song. To say it was well received is something of an understatement.

Melbourne's chances of ruining the night took a nosedive from the start when the Bulldogs scored three tries in the space of 14 minutes to put themselves in control at 16-0. The first four-pointer came in the fourth minute when winger Curtis Rona kicked infield and into the in-goal area for flying fullback Brett Morris to pounce on.

Josh Jackson was missing through suspension but Shaun Lane proved a handy replacement after he ran off Hodkinson to score in the seventh minute. The first-half rout was complete by the 14th minute when Hodkinson and Lane combined to put winger Sam Perrett over in the corner.

The Bulldogs kept the momentum going in the second half when prop Sam Kasiano threw a long ball for Josh Morris to score and extend the margin to 20-0.

It's not quite alarm bells for the Storm just yet but they're probably not too far off either. Last night's result was their third consecutive loss after dropping games to Parramatta and Brisbane.

The club has been hit hard by the representative season with fullback Billy Slater out for the year with a shoulder injury while halfback Cooper Cronk missed last night with a knee problem.Their only joy came in the 79th minute when Koroibete was rewarded for his never-say-die attitude with a try.



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