MELBOURNE - Melbourne Storm's spirited win over the Bulldogs has come at a cost with NRL superstar fullback Billy Slater placed on report for allegedly kicking the face of teenage prop David Klemmer.
The Storm repeated their 2012 grand final performance with a 22-18 victory at AAMI Park on Thursday night, denying a thrilling late charge by the Bulldogs.
The home side took a halftime 10-0 lead but their second half couldn't have started any worse.
Slater leapt high to take a bomb and his boots made contact with the face of the Bulldogs forward.
The video referee said Slater had "kicked him" with referee Ben Cummins putting the Test custodian on report for dangerous play.
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".
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.
The rattled Storm a minute later conceded a try after Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds put a cross-field kick into the hands of winger Sam Perrett to touch down.
A Cooper Cronk try was then disallowed because of obstruction by Bryan Norrie and it looked like the Bulldogs were going to cause a boil-over.
But Melbourne regrouped and scored two tries within three minutes to look to have the match in their keeping.
Winger Matt Duffie showed his aerial credentials with a special leap to take a Cronk bomb before planting the ball in the 63rd minute and he was quickly followed by young forward Lagi Setu, who burrowed across the line.
Smith added the extras and the scoreline was out to 22-6.
However the Bulldogs showed some fight to strike back with two tries of their own.
Centre Krisnan Inu and halfback Kris Keating both crossed, with Inu converting to make it 22-18 with four minutes remaining.
They had a set of six 10m from the tryline but couldn't find the points they needed with the Storm defence holding firm.
Slater said after the match he only had eyes for the ball.
"I just go up for the footy and try to protect myself as best I can," he said.
"What they (officials) saw in it, I'm not too sure."