The Canberra Raiders have completed a heart stopping 24-22 come from behind victory over the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium this afternoon.
The Raiders took the lead for the first time all afternoon when Jarrod Croker successfully converted a Paul Vaughan try with 20 seconds to go.
The Raiders came into today’s game on the back of six consecutive losses at GIO stadium going back to Round 21 last year, but were buoyed by their recent head to head record against the Storm winning two of the last three matches against their Melbourne counterparts.
Melbourne were first to score after a Cameron Smith grubber bounced off the uprights and fell into the hands of Storm forward Ryan Hinchcliffe. Smith added the extras from under the posts to give the Storm a 6-0 lead after nine minutes.
An offload from Shaun Fensom sparked a line break. Terry Campese was able to find Matt Allwood in open space, and the Raider centre charged over Billy Slater to put the Raiders on the board. Jarrod Croker added the extras to lock scores at 6 a piece after the first sixteen minutes.
Canberra was getting through a lot of work early in defence with Glen Buttris, David Shillington, Shaun Fensom and Brett White all getting through 10 or more tackles in the opening 20 minutes.
The Storm wrestled back the lead in the twenty first minute, when winger Sisa Waqa was able to gather a cross field kick and get past Anthony Milford to score. Smith added the extras to give the storm a 12-6 lead.
Mahe Fonua made the most of the Storm’s momentum, scoring a try in the corner to extend Melbourne’s lead. Smith missed the conversion to leave the Storm with a 16-6 lead after thirty three minutes.
Melbourne broke the line again through Kenny Bromwich, he gave to Slater who looked certain to score before some desperate defence from Croker stopped the Storm fullback and forced a handling error.
An unbelievable last tackle play led to Reece Robinson scoring close to the corner in the thirty ninth minute. The ball went through at least 7 Raiders’ pairs of hands, before Robinson powered his way over three Storm defenders.
Croker added the extras and despite their dominance the Storm had a slender 16-12 lead, and Canberra had all the momentum heading into the second half.
Raiders halves pairing of Campese and Wighton controlled the game well in the first half, and their kicking game was on song with a total of 346 kick metres in the first half alone.
Melbourne were first to score after half time, Fonua was able to slip between the Canberra defence and put it down under pressure from Milford. Smith added the extras to give the Storm a 22-12 lead after forty five minutes.
Following repeat sets on the line the Raiders eventually forced an error out of Storm forward Ryan Hoffman, when he looked certain to score.
The GIO Stadium crowd came to life when the Raiders were awarded a penalty to get out of their own half. Canberra made good metres but a Josh McCrone grubber was just too long for Croker who nearly got to it before the ball went dead.
Canberra was building momentum and after a ton of ball Anthony Milford found an opening and gave to Allwood. His pass found an unmarked Robinson who got his second try for the game in the corner. Croker nailed the tough conversion to bring the Raiders back to a four point deficit with twenty three minutes to go.
On the next set Milford again sparked the Raiders making a break down the sideline, the Storm was now having to defend their own line and the lead after controlling much of this game.
Melbourne scrambled well and following a questionable last tackle option from Campese got out of it without conceding.
The Raiders were gifted possession ten metres out from the line following a Storm error. White dropped the ball close to the line and the chance was missed.
It looked like Melbourne had sealed the game through a late try to Waqa, but again Croker saved the Raiders, as he was able to take Waqa out before he could get over the try line.
Canberra made a break through Paul Vaughan which left them five metres from the try line, but again on the last tackle they were unable to make the Storm pay as a pass from Milford was batted forward.
With two minutes to go the GIO Stadium crowd was sent into absolute mayhem. A flick pass from Matt Allwood led to Robinson starting a break down the field for Raiders. He gave to Milford who broke the line to charge inside the Storm’s 20.
His break was ended when he was caught by a desperate Slater. Canberra was patient this time with their build up and a loose pass was picked up by Vaughan who sidestepped through a gap and ran fifteen metres to score next to the posts.
Croker added the extras and the Raiders took the lead for the first time all afternoon with just twenty seconds remaining.
It was an unbelievable win for the Canberra Raiders who had to defend a total of 10 more sets in defence and 43 sets overall. Milford was sensational in the second half and proved why he is such an important player in this Canberra line up.
Shaun Fensom was again a workhorse for the Canberra team with 101 metres gained and 46 tackles laid.
The Canberra Raiders will travel to Brookvale Oval next week to take on the Manly Sea Eagles from 2:00pm.
Canberra Raiders 24 Defeated Melbourne Storm 22
Tries: 2 Robinson, Allwood, Vaughan; Croker 4 Goals
Tries: 2 Fonua, Hinchcliffe, Waqa; Smith 3 Goals