Storm hot in the city, Billy idle
AGAIN it was the man in the No. 1 jersey who led Melbourne to a victory. Only this time it was Cameron Munster - again deputising for the injured Billy Slater - who starred at fullback to help the Storm to a 36-18 win against Canterbury.
Munster laid on two first half tries as the Storm exploded to a 24-12 halftime lead in front of 38,824 people in Perth to kickstart Melbourne's premiership defence.
The game looked beyond Canterbury at the break but they started the better of the two sides and were in striking distance - trailing by just six points - as they looked like they could secure a come-from-behind win.
But any chance of that ended when Moses Mbye fumbled a pass into Josh Addo-Carr with the flyer racing 85 metres untouched to set up a 12-point lead with 18 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs never recovered.
There were some positive signs from the Bulldogs - particularly in attack.
Kieran Foran showed he was far from a spent force while the shift to fullback for Moses Mbye looks to be a winner.
Foran laid on Canterbury's opening try with a pass to Raymond Faitala-Mariner to give new coach Dean Pay a dream start to his coaching career after three minutes.
However Pay's joy was short-lived when Storm big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona delivered the sweetest of all around the corner passes to set up Ryley Jacks four minutes later to level the scores 6-all.
Pay said there were "promising signs".
"I thought we had some good periods there," he said.
"The period before halftime they rolled up the field too easy. I thought where we were finishing our sets and where we were kicking didn't help us too much.
"Kieran was quite good. Moses Mbye was good at the back. I thought he played particularly well. (The halves) is a new combination. It will take a bit of time. It's a starting point. It will only go forward from here."
A Jacks cross-field kick delivered the next points to Curtis Scott to give Melbourne a six-point lead.
A cut-out pass by Matt Frawley to Brett Morris saw the Bulldogs strike back four minutes later before Munster - who finished with three try assists - came alive.
The 23-year-old showed he suffered no hangover from a dream 2017 on the field which included a premiership ring plus Queensland and Kangaroos debuts.
Munster has had some off field mishaps but he again showed why he is one of the most destructive ballrunners in the game.
He laid on Addo-Carr's opening try after racing away from a kick return before breaking the line to send Kenny Bromwich over to extend the Storm's lead to 12 at the break,
The Bulldogs crawled their way back via a Frawley try after 55 minutes but the Storm finished off the match with wingers Addo-Carr and Suli Vunivalu scoring as Munster laid on the final try.
MELBOURNE 36 (J Addo-Carr 2 K Bromwich R Jacks C Scott S Vunivalu tries C Smith 6 goals) bt CANTERBURY 18 (R Faitala-Mariner M Frawley B Morris tries M Mbye 3 goals) at Optus Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Chris Sutton. Crowd: 38,824