Storm 22 Bulldogs 18
Melbourne were fuming after NRL star Billy Slater was placed on report for kicking the face of teenage prop David Klemmer as he leapt for a high ball during their 22-18 win over the Bulldogs.
Just a minute into the second half at AAMI Park in their grand final rematch Slater jumped up to take a bomb and his boots made contact with the face of the Bulldogs forward.
Initially the Bulldogs were going to be penalised but the video referee said Slater's actions were a "prior act of foul play" with referee Ben Cummins putting the Test custodian on report.
Cameron Smith protested that Klemmer had attempted to tackle Slater in the air but Cummins told the skipper that Slater kicked the Bulldog "before anything else happened".
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and Smith were bewildered by the call.
"What's Billy supposed to do with his foot ... chop it off?", said Bellamy.
"If he's catching a kick and he's gone up off the ground, he's not to be touched.
"If you touch him in the air, you're going to get penalised."
Bellamy said it was tough call that changed the game.
The Bulldogs scored through Sam Perrett in the ensuing set.
Smith said he'd seen the Test custodian take the ball in the same way since he started his career.
"Billy's been going up for high balls like that for as long as I can remember, he works on that every week at training," Smith said.
"I was quite mystified by that.
"It was unintentional by Bill.
"David (Klemmer) hit Bill in the air so I don't know what else Bill is supposed to do there."
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said he didn't think the Slater incident was intentional.
"It was probably just dangerous play," Hasler said.
Slater was only available for this match after making an early guilty plea to a dangerous contact charge after he knocked out Antonio Winterstein early in last round's win over the Cowboys and now has carry-over points.
The incident soured a stirring win by the Storm, who looked to be feeling the effects of two games played in heat and a heavy-travel schedule.
They were patchy, although credit should got to the Bulldogs who never backed down.
The Storm held a 22-6 lead midway through the second half before two late Bulldogs tries scored by Krisnan Inu and Kris Keating sent the game down to the wire.
Hasler lamented his team's failure to make the most of their chances.
"It was two points we could have got tonight.
"It was all within our grasp and we'll take some hard lessons out of it."
He said troubled fullback Ben Barba was a chance to play in their Good Friday clash with Souths and he will make a decision mid next week.