Canterbury coach Des Hasler saluted his team’s response from last week’s disappointing NRL loss to Newcastle in Mackay as they humbled depleted reigning premiers Melbourne 39-0 at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The Bulldogs ran in eight tries with the Storm held scoreless for the first time since the 2008 grand final as they struggled without State of Origin stars Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Ryan Hoffman.
The win took Hasler’s side back into the top eight and improved their points differential thanks largely to a hat-trick of tries from Sam Perrett and an outstanding display from Josh Reynolds.
Reynolds was released from the NSW camp on Friday to play the game after Blues coach Laurie Daley reconfigured his bench to accommodate the loss of injured skipper Paul Gallen.
“The boys were disappointed after the Newcastle game in Mackay (losing 18-12) and wanted to make it right today and get back in the winners’ circle,” Hasler said.
“Both sides were without players but the Storm missed their big three. But we still had to get the result.
“The points help our for and against so it was good day all round.”
Hasler admitted it was a pleasant surprise to get Reynolds back for training on Saturday and praised the manner in which the 24-year-old bounced back from the disappointment of missing out on Wednesday’s Origin decider.
“He’s a positive kid Josh, he’s been part of it,” he said.
“He’s always optimistic and he’ll go back in as 18th man and who knows what’ll happen between now and Wednesday.
“He was alright when he rang me. He just loves playing football.”
However the two-time premiership-winning coach did concede Reynolds was lucky to not be sin-binned when he hauled down Justin O’Neill as he grubbered the ball towards the tryline early in the second half, with the officials opting to only award a penalty against him.
“It could have gone either way,” he said.
“He could have been sin-binned, or it could have been a penalty or a penalty try.”
Craig Bellamy refused to blame the absence of his Origin players for the heavy defeat but said Reynolds should have been sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes.
“We made it tough on ourselves all day,” he said.
“Our defence was poor and we kept giving the ball away in our half.
“But if that’s not a sin bin then I don’t know what is. But it’s not why we lost the game.
“At the end of the day it wasn’t going to change the result.”