Storm 28 Raiders 14
The Canberra Raiders fumbled and the Melbourne Storm bumbled but in the end the home side found enough points to score a much-needed victory at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The Storm scored a 28-14 win over the hapless Raiders, taking their record back into positive territory at 9-8 ahead of several upcoming road matches.
Several Raiders fumbles in the second half gave the Storm the possessions they couldn’t find in the first half and they punished the visitors for their errors with three second-half tries to one.
The Storm rode their luck in the early moments with Cooper Cronk’s kick on halfway partially deflected by Raiders captain Terry Campese then falling to Bryan Norrie, who picked it up and gave the Storm an extra set.
After threatening to reach the line, the Storm looked to have lost the ball after an ill-timed pass from Cameron Smith which rolled back towards the 20-metre line.
Instead Cronk dived in and managed to knock the ball backwards to Kevin Proctor, who stepped past two defenders and powered through a gap to the try line after four minutes.
Smith, wearing No.16 in honour of retired Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon, sprayed the conversion wide left, making it 4-0.
The Storm had their second try through Jordan McLean just minutes later when the home side moved the ball inside from the left. The big lock saw a gap and drove through it to score next to the post before being mobbed by his teammates as it was McLean who was suspended for seven weeks for his part in the tackle which left resulted in McKinnon’s neck injury.
Smith converted from in front to make it 10-0 after nine minutes.
The Raiders, aided by penalties for holding on the Storm, pushed into their own 20-metre line but turned it over after an errant pass missed three Raiders and came to the Storm.
The Storm should have had a third try on 17 minutes when Billy Slater attacked the line with players on his outside but the full back’s pass went straight to Raiders winger Reece Robinson, who would have run clear for an intercept try but for a rapid chase down from Slater.
That interception proved the spark for the Raiders first score as the green machine pushed deep into the Storm’s half then rode a brilliant pass from Campese, who saw Sami Sauiluma open on the left wing and looped a long pass straight to the player, who scored.
The Storm wasted no time in responding with a knock on from the Raiders as they received the ball from the kick-off before Mahe Fonua burst down their left flank, finding the lively Storm winger Marika Koroibete, who scored the try.
Campese’s array of trick kicks was on display on 25 minutes when a check-sided kick went to Storm second-rower Ryan Hoffman, who knocked the ball on 10 metres from the line but the Raiders couldn’t find a way to the line as Slater cleaned up Campese’s next kick.
The Raiders continued to test the Storm’s inconsistent defence and it finally cracked when Raiders full back Anthony Milford attacked the edge of the Storm’s line and found a gap, scoring to make it 14-10 on 31 minutes.
Milford’s try put some pep in the Raiders’ step as they dominated possession from then until half time with Storm penalties and smart kicking from Josh McCrone and Campese forcing repeat sets for the visitors, who fluffed their lines with the line in sight when the Raiders’ fumbled the ball.
Storm went to the half up 14-10 but desperately needing to find more possession in the second stanza. The Raiders had to defend right on their line five minutes into the second half when the Storm, on their final tackle, threw repeated passes and sent forward Junior Moors towards the line only for the visitors to hold him off the ground and end the attack.
Fonua drew a penalty from the Raiders as the Storm entered the Raiders’ 20-metre line then he finished the play soon after, taking a pass from Smith and overpowering three Raiders defenders to touch down the ball and draw a huge roar from his home fans.
It was Fonua’s seventh try against the Raiders in four games with Storm up 20-10 after 53 minutes.
The Raiders’ poor handling hurt them multiple times in the first-part of the second half and another visitor turnover saw the Storm push to within reach of their line, only for Fonua to attempt a pass to Koroibete on 60 minutes, which slipped through the Fijian’s hands and into touch.
The Storm threatened to break past the tiring Raiders’ defence and they finally did it on 64 minutes when Sisa Waqa was released down the right sideline, shooting past the Raiders’ wide-men and into score as Storm led 24-10 with 15 minutes left to play.
Koroibete gifted Fonua his second try with 11 minutes left to play with the Fijian held while standing on the Raiders’ try line then allowing Fonua to take the ball from his hands and score the try.
Raiders points-machine Jarrod Croker snared a late-breakaway try.
Slater gave the home fans a defensive play to cheer for in the final minute, chasing down Reece Robinson and forcing the ball from his hands before he reached the try line.
It was one last error from the Raiders for a second half to forget.