Opposing star fullbacks Billy Slater and Brett Morris both made successful returns after shoulder reconstructions as Melbourne edged Canterbury 32-30 in a high-scoring NRL trial match on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
The Storm powered home with the last four tries of the match to claim victory on a steamy evening in Melbourne, although the margin would have been bigger had Will Chambers not had an erratic night with the boot, missing all four of his conversion attempts before being replaced.
The Storm outscored the Bulldogs seven tries to five.
Suliasi Vunivalu’s 72nd-minute try for Melbourne levelled the scores at 30-30, with Shaun Nona stepping up to kick what turned out to be the match-winning conversion.
Morris, who ended his nine-year stint at St George Illawarra at the end of the 2014 season to again get the chance to play alongside twin brother Josh, was involved in his first match for the Bulldogs after finally recovering from shoulder surgery.
He scored the opening try in the 15th minute, reacting quickest to a grubber kick from one of the Dogs’ other recruits, former North Queensland winger Curtis Rona.
Morris went from hero to villain a few minutes later, fumbling in the in-goal and allowing impressive winger Young Tonumaipea to touch down for the Storm.
The Bulldogs led 18-8 at halftime and pushed the margin out to 30-12 before the Storm scored the last 20 points of the match, including a 57th-minute try to Slater.
“It was good to get three quarters of the game into me and, hopefully, that will benefit me going into round one,” said Slater, who was forced to miss last year’s Four Nations campaign due to a serious shoulder injury.
He also had an arthroscopy on his left elbow and laser eye treatment.
“Physically, I feel fine,” he added.
“I took the time to get those injuries fixed up and get some run into my legs, which I haven’t had the chance to do for a long time.”
Slater was impressed with the efforts of Storm recruits such as Blake Green and Dale Finucane.
“The 30 points against us doesn’t sit too good with me and I’m sure it doesn’t sit too good with the rest of the players and our coach, but we’ll work on those areas,” he said.
“But all in all, I thought we took a step on the road in the right direction.”
The Bulldogs begin their regular-season campaign away to Penrith on March 8, while the Storm travel to tackle St George Illawarra the following day.