It was the clash between last year’s grand finalists and it was a match that lived up to the billing, as the Melbourne Storm held on for a narrow win against the Canterbury Bulldogs, a game that also had some controversial moments.
One such incident came early in the second half, when a flying Billy Slater who was in the process of taking a bomb, hit Bulldogs prop David Klemmer with his boot in the face on his way down.
The incident was placed on report and was initially going to be a penalty to the Storm for an illegal tackle in the air, before referee Ben Cummins deemed the incident as “foul play”.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy was far from happy about Slater being put on report and made his feelings known in the post-match press conference.
“What’s Billy supposed to do with his foot … chop it off?”, said Bellamy.
“If he’s catching a kick and he’s gone up off the ground, he’s not to be touched.
“If you touch him in the air, you’re going to get penalised.”
With the incident changing the course of the game, Storm captain Cameron Smith said he has seen Slater take the ball in that fashion for his entire career.
“Billy’s been going up for high balls like that for as long as I can remember, he works on that every week at training,” Smith said.
“I was quite mystified by that.
“It was unintentional by Bill.
“David (Klemmer) hit Bill in the air so I don’t know what else Bill is supposed to do there.”
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was of the belief that the kick from Slater was not intentional.
“It was probably just dangerous play,” Hasler said.
It was a funny game overall, as the Storm took the ascendancy and raced out to what looked like a comfortable lead – before the Dogs fought back, aiming all their attacks down a tiring right-hand side defence.
Despite that, however, Hasler lamented his side’s poor finishing in the clash.
“It was two points we could have got tonight.
“It was all within our grasp and we’ll take some hard lessons out of it.”
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