The Canberra Raiders have suffered a 28-14 loss at the hands of the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park this afternoon.
It was a game where the Raiders had plenty of chances but they were ultimately unable to convert those chances, with errors at crucial moments probably robbing the Raiders of any chance of back-to-back victories.
Canberra were coming into the game looking to celebrate the 100 game milestone for lock Shaun Fensom, but it was Kevin Proctor who was able to score the first try of the game after showing some fleet footwork close to the line. Cameron Smith missed the conversion to give the Storm a 4-0 lead after five minutes.
The Storm then got good field position via a penalty, they made the Raiders pay when Jordan McLean was able to score his second try of the season. Smith made no errors this time to give the Storm a 10-0 lead after eight minutes.
Canberra got on the board following a wicked cut out ball from Terry Campese who found an unmarked Sami Sauiluma for his first try of the year. The Canberra winger copped heavy knees from Marika Koroibete but no penalty was forth coming for the Raiders.
Croker shanked the conversion keeping the Storm’s margin at a converted try. Then an Anthony Milford error from the kick off allowed the Storm another chance at the Raiders line.
The Storm made them pay with a short side play and Koroibete scored. Smith missed the conversion reasserting the Storm’s 10 point lead. Canberra then started to look dangerous in attack and Milford was able to get on the outside of Ben Roberts and put some pace on to score out wide.
This time Croker made no errors with his conversion bringing the Storm’s lead back to 14-10 after 33 minutes. A clever kick from Josh McCrone then gave the Raiders a repeat set as they bowled Slater out 20 metres from the try line.
Canberra were unable to make the most of the chances before half time with Melbourne taking a 14-10 lead into the half time break. The Raiders would be buoyed by their earlier season game against the Storm, where the Raiders were able to overturn a half time deficit to have an unlikely win.
They started the second half the better with inventive kicks from both McCrone and Milford earning repeat sets on the Storm try line. All the pressure was released when Campsese dropped the ball 10 out from the Storm line.
It proved costly as the Storm went straight into attack and Mahe Fonua was able to score off the back of a penalty. Smith added the extras and the Storm took a 20-10 lead after 53 minutes.
Canberra were lucky not to be further behind, but some great defence from Jarrad Kennedy saved a certain try for the Storm. With Fonua then offloading a pass forward and into touch.
Some ordinary defence from a scrum on the short side allowed the Storm to break down the short side and Sisa Waqa was able to race away for the Storm’s 5th try of the game. Smith’s conversion was a shocker and the Storm took a 24-10 lead with 15 minutes to go.
The outside backs from the Storm were just proving too much for the Raiders, Koroibete this time shrugged two tacklers while staying in the field of play before offloading to Fonua who got his second of the game. Smith continued his horror night with the boot missing the conversion.
Croker added some points to his personal points tally when he intercepted a wayward Cooper Cronk pass and raced away 80 metres to score. Campese took the kick, and it hit the cross bar highlighting the Raiders night that was so close but so far.
Reece Robinson nearly scored the try of the night right on full time, but despite his side leading Billy Slater was able to get across and make a try saving tackle on the flying winger. It showed that the Raiders weren’t all that far away, but again it was the ability to hold onto the football and finish that escaped the Raiders in crucial moments.
Ultimately it was the Storm who were able to finish when it mattered, scoring tries after immense pressure from the Raiders, which sealed the game for them in their 28-14 victory, and whilst it was a disappointing loss for the Raiders there were some positive signs.
Fensom was again his tireless self-making 50 tackles, 3 offloads, 3 tackle breaks and having 16 runs for 130 metres. The Raiders will next week return to GIO Stadium to take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Melbourne Storm 28
Tries: Fonua 2, Proctor, McLean, Koroibete, Waqa; Smith 2 Goals
Canberra Raiders 14
Tries: Sauiluma, Milford, Croker; Croker 1 Goals