|Match Date||10th Aug, 2003|
|Venue||Sydney Showground Homebush|
Five wins in six games since Melbourne last succumbed to the Bulldogs had put the Storm in a confident mood leading up to yesterday's return clash at Sydney Showground. But an awesome kicking display from Hazem El Masri and a hat-trick of tries to Matthew Utai resulted in a 50-4 drubbing.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy conceded his side "took a few steps backwards" with yesterday's dismal showing. Skipper Stephen Kearney said there was a lack of commitment. Bulldog Willie Mason said of Melbourne: "They had to win . . . we came out and blew them off the field. It's pretty pleasing."
Adding to the Storm's woes was the news lock Dallas Johnson is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. "The finals are a long way away for us," Bellamy said.
Melbourne can make amends by eliminating Parramatta from the premiership race on Sunday while the Bulldogs can be confident of a top-four spot. But, there is something else on their minds following another stunning kicking display from winger El Masri. When a Bulldogs player crosses for a try, El Masri's refrain is always the same: "Under the posts!"
Next Sunday at Brookvale Oval, he shouldn't have to bother with his plaintive cry. One more successful kick and the 27-year-old will break former clubmate Daryl Halligan's premiership record of 30 consecutive goals.
"I didn't know he was on some sort of record but he's kicking great," second-rower Mason said after El Masri kicked nine from nine - he has landed 51 from his past 52.
Aside from El Masri's kicking, yesterday's fourth-versus-sixth clash was best noted for three blazing tries by the other Dogs' winger, Utai, and the surprising margin. In a mistake-strewn contest, Utai was the difference between the sides early.
"The Bulldogs were as bad as us in the first half," Bellamy said.
Utai took four rivals on a merry dance despite being ankle-tapped in the lead-up to his sixth-minute try, he beat Billy Slater's tackle for his second in the 25th and saved his best until last by taking the ball from a standing start, kicking ahead and touching down in the 38th.
With Utai's hat-trick, a penalty goal and a 34th-minute try to to interchange forward Dennis Scott, the Storm was down 26-0 by half-time. Five-eighth Matt Geyer pegged one back with a 43rd-minute four-pointer but things didn't really improve.
Bulldogs replacement forward Jamie Feeney crossed 11 minutes into the second half and rookie Brett Oliver crossed from dummy-half soon after.
In fact, the only anxious moments for the Belmore side came when El Masri's conversion of the Oliver try hit the right upright, then richocheted off the left before going through.
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||9||0||18|
|Johnathan Thurston||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brent Sherwin||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Willie Mason||Second Row||1||0||0||4|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Mark O'Meley||Front Row||0||0||0||0|