Two quick tries early in the second half have seen the Canberra Raiders U20s succumb to a 36-24 defeat at the hands of the Melbourne Storm in the NYC at GIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Raiders scored late in the opening half to make things 26-12 at half-time, but any hope of a Canberra comeback was quickly extinguished as Melbourne crossed for two tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second stanza.
Hooker Harry Grant burrowed over from dummy-half for his second try of the game six minutes in, before winger Harlan Collins iced a silky passage of passes on the left edge to extend his side’s lead to 36-12.
Melbourne enjoyed a glut of possession and optimal field territory for the vast majority of the opening 40 in a match in which the Raiders could never recover to cast further doubt over their finals chances.
Melbourne opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Grant burrowed his way over from dummy-half to the right of the woodwork, before Jesse Arthars added the extras to hand the visitors a 6-0 lead.
A penalty then piggybacked the Storm back into Raiders territory in the ensuing set off the kick-off, before another blow of the whistle saw Melbourne pot an 11th-minute penalty goal to extend its lead to 8-0.
The Victorians would then cross for their second try of the afternoon off the back of a mass of possession and golden field territory, winger Kea Pere dotting down on the right edge before Arthars again made no mistake from the tee.
It came after a lengthy back-to-the-wall dig in which the Raiders showed sustained grit in continually defending their own line.
Raiders second-row Hudson Young went agonisingly close to registering Canberra’s first points of the game upon their first visit to Melbourne’s try-line when he crashed through the Storm’s defence but was brought to a halt by Jack Cornford at fullback.
But what the Storm could not contain was a fleet-footed skip from Raiders halfback Lachlan Cooper moments later.
Andre Niko put the ball over the black dot to make things 14-6 with 13 minutes to play in the opening half, but another converted Melbourne four-pointer proved to be just around the corner when second-row Jacob Tongue bustled through.
Things went from bad to worse for the men in green in the 32nd minute when centre Sale Finau pierced the Raiders’ right-edge defence from 45 metres out to race away for the Storm’s fourth try of the game.
Arthars again made no mistake from the tee to hand Melbourne a 26-6 lead, but the Raiders would flex their muscle three minutes out from the break when Cooper regathered his own grubber on the visitors’ try-line.
Sebastian Kris took over kicking duties to convert Cooper’s second try of the game, before the Storm took a 26-12 lead into half-time.
Wesley Tameifuna picked up a consolation try on the left edge in the 66th minute that Niko would convert to make things 36-18, before Komiti Tuilagi collected a try of his own from close range two minutes from full-time.
But it would prove to be a matter of too little too late, the away side staving off the Raiders in a 12-point win.
Second-row Jack Murchie was a stand-out for Canberra in a losing cause and fittingly earned the Raiders’ man-of-the-match.
The Raiders are now set to meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium next Saturday afternoon.