After a courageous win minus their Origin stars over the Gold Coast Titans back in round 14, the Storm where back to their full roster and their clinical best when disposing of Parramatta in round 15, 46 – 20.
Off that effort, the Storm were favourites to register three straight wins for the first time since the opening three weeks of this season when they travelled to Win Stadium to take on the Dragons in round 16.
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However they were outgunned by an improving Dragons outfit and posted only two tries to the Dragons’ five in their 24 – 14 loss.
The Storm had the bye last week to regroup and although their record this year at home isn’t as strong as it has been in recent years, hosting the Dogs at AAMI Park will be an advantage to them.
The Storm have named each of their Origin players – Slater, Smith, Hoffman and Chambers, in the starting line-up for the clash but not so halfback Cooper Cronk who is named to return for Queensland in Origin Wednesday night from a broken arm.
It’s been a tough few months for the Bulldogs with the combination of Origin commitments and injuries, hitting the one-time competition leaders hard.
They lost three on the trot before they grinded out a 22 – 14 win over the Raiders in Canberra in round 15 and after the bye, surprised most tipsters with a tenacious 23 – 16 win over Manly last week without a host of the Origin stars participating.
These two wins typify the attitude of the Bulldogs who can tough out a win under trying conditions, a quality few in the competition possess.
The victories also give them a good leg-up heading into the post-Origin period with their each of the Origin players – Reynolds, Hodkinson and Morris, being named in this week’s side.
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HEAD TO HEAD
The Bulldogs have won their last two games against the Storm – the most recent being a comprehensive 40 – 12 win at ANZ Stadium back in round 4 this year.
Worryingly though for the Bulldogs is that this game is in Melbourne, where they haven’t won since 2005. They have come close on their two most recent attempts though, losing by small margins of 4 and 6 points.
With good confidence after last week’s win and the return of their regular halves, the Bulldogs are well placed to break the drought here and in the least, will certainly make it another close encounter.
STORM: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Kurt Mann, Mahe Fonua, Ben Hampton, Ben Roberts, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: Kenneath Bromwich, Tohu Harris, Junior Moors, Jordan McLean, Tim Glasby, Joel Romelo.
BULLDOGS: Mitch Brown, Corey Thompson, Josh Morris, Timoteo Lafai, Krisnan Inu, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Sam Kasiano, Michael Ennis, James Graham, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Reni Maitua, Dale Finucane, Tim Browne, Lloyd Perrett, Damien Cook, Drury Low, Pat O’Hanlon.