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Canterbury Bulldogs rip apart depleted Storm 39-0

Canterbury revived their aspirations of a top-four NRL finish at ANZ Stadium on Sunday when they chalked up a 39-0 win over a depleted Melbourne in a lukewarm repeat of last year's grand final.

The Bulldogs produced some scintillating play to see off the reigning premiers who were without State of Origin stars Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Ryan Hoffman in front of a crowd of 16,406.

It was the first time a Storm side had been held scoreless since their 2008 grand final defeat by Manly.

Des Hasler's men were irresistible at times as they ran the visitors ragged with veteran Sam Perrett grabbing a hat-trick of tries and fellow winger Mitch Brown a double to help improve their side's points differential.
Barba running for a try. Image credit: AAP/NRL

Canterbury were only missing the services of NSW centre Josh Morris to Origin, but were also without giant forwards Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard.

However, the return of Josh Reynolds, who was released from the Blues camp on Friday, bolstered them considerably.

The five-eighth was outstanding in the opening stanza, kicking a 40-20 that set up Perrett's opening try, then producing a bone-crunching challenge on Ben Hampton as he collected a high ball that lifted the crowd from their seats.

However, Reynolds should have spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for hauling down Justin O'Neill when he looked set to score.

With the centre kicking the ball forward, Reynolds produced a last-ditch sliding tackle with his feet that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Manchester United defence that play at the same stadium next Saturday.

But it was the dragging down of O'Neill's jersey that infuriated the Storm with the referees only a awarding a penalty for the infringement.

And from the following set, Perrett scored again when he intercepted a Hampton pass and raced 70 metres to score.

That try followed earlier efforts from Brown and Tim Lafai that gave the `Dogs a 12-0 half-time lead.

With Ben Barba becoming more involved, Canterbury continued to crank up the pressure and were rewarded with four more second-half tries to Tony Williams, Brown and Perrett.

Barba's strong performance was rewarded with a late effort to add some extra gloss to the scoreline with Hodkinson booting a field goal with the last play of the game.

One concern for Hasler will be the kicking form of Hodkinson who missed five efforts from eight attempts after failing with three attempts in the loss to Newcastle last round.
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