The Canberra Raiders NYC team has snapped a two game losing streak scoring two late tries to run out 28-22 winners over the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium.
A win was looking unlikely for the young Raiders, but some late heroics from winger Jake Wheeler ensured that the Raiders were going home with the two points.
Canberra was coming into the game off some heavy losses in recent weeks and were looking to make amends against a Melbourne side with a similar record.
It was the Storm though who took the lead after forward Rhys Kennedy was able to shrug some soft defence close to the line, Cameron Munster converted the try to give the Storm a six point lead after six minutes played.
Some strong defensive pressure gave the Raiders some good field position after they forced a Storm handling error in their own half. Forward Scott Doyle continued his form from last week, breaking through some sloppy Storm defence to score close to the corner.
Mago couldn’t add the extras from the sideline and it was the Storm with a 6-4 lead after eleven minutes.
The Raiders were given a penalty after the kick off and they made the Storm pay for their ill-discipline. On the next set following the penalty, Wheeler was found unmarked on the wing off a beautiful cut out pass from Jared McIlwrick, and scored in the corner to give the Raiders the lead.
Doyle took over the kicking duties and couldn’t add the extras from the corner, which left the scores at 8-6 in favour of the Raiders after fifteen minutes.
Canberra continued to dominate the field position early, after they were given another penalty late into their set. They were able to get a repeat set at the line after a creative kick from Heffernan trapped Brayden Torpy in goals.
They took advantage of the great field position and a nice backline play saw Lachlan Hurst score in the corner, Doyle couldn’t add the extras and despite scoring three tries to one, the Raiders held a slender one try lead after twenty two minutes.
Canberra’s defence was good in the first half, which was highlighted by a strong Trent Schubach tackle which stopped a certain try from Storm forward Matt Lodge.
Jules Webley continued the strong defence when he put on a monster hit, forcing an error in the Storm’s defensive half. They couldn’t make it count despite a repeat set of six on the line.
Melbourne started to get some momentum up late in the first half, and they pressured Ricky Garard under the high ball who showed all the prowess of a seasoned pro.
Despite the Storm pressure it was the Raiders who extended their lead through a try to Josh Baker, Doyle couldn’t add the extras, but the Raiders held a 16-6 advantage after thirty five minutes.
It was a good first half from the Raiders who for the first time this year took a lead into half time.
Melbourne scored first after the break when Francis Tualau took advantage of some good field position and crashed over close to the uprights. Munster added the extras and it was back to a slender 16-12 lead after 43 minutes.
The Storm tied the game through Munster following a kick in behind the Canberra line, he couldn’t convert his own try which left the game tied at 16 all with fifty minutes gone.
It was all Melbourne early in the 2nd half, but they were unable to take the lead after a trifecta of sets on the Canberra line. The Raiders were rewarded with a penalty the next set and managed to get it out of their own defensive half.
Melbourne took the lead back following a break from Nicoll-Klokstan, he found an unmarked Josh Minhinnick who scored for the Storm. Munster added the extras to give the Storm a 22-16 lead with sixteen minutes to go.
Andrew Heffernan sparked the Raiders into action after a nice ball found Garard in some space. Canberra got repeat sets at the Storm line and they nearly scored but a Garard flick pass wasn’t able to find an unmarked Wheeler.
Finally the team was rewarded for their attacking pressure and Heffernan muscled his way over the line, Mago added the extras and the scores were tied at 22 a piece with five minutes remaining.
The game needed a hero and Wheeler delivered, he managed to stay inside the field of play, put a grubber in behind the Storm defence, and beat four players in a foot race to put the Raiders into the lead.
Mago added the extras and the Raiders were unlikely 28-22 leaders with two minutes to go.
It was a tense final two minutes, but the Raiders were able to hold out the Storm and complete the six point victory.
In a game that was tightly contested for most of the 2nd half the young Raiders were best served by captain Luke Bateman who was today’s man of the match. Halfback Andrew Heffernan who was one of the catalysts in the comeback, and winger Jake Wheeler who showed why he is such an exciting prospect for the Canberra side.
Canberra will travel to Brookvale next week to take on the Many Sea Eagles on Sunday.
Canberra Raiders 28 defeated Melbourne Storm 22
Tries: Wheeler 2, Doyle, Hurst, Baker, Heffernan; Mago 2 Goals.
Tries: Kennedy, Tualau, Munster, Minhinnick; Munster 3 Goals