A first half hat trick to Suliasi Vunivalu has helped the Melbourne Storm beat the Canberra Raiders 22-10 in front of 14,031 fans at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
The Green Machine were kept scoreless for most of the game, with the Storm being too much for the Raiders defence to handle throughout the match.
Despite an energetic Charnze Nicoll-Kolkstad dominating the back line, the Raiders were forced to reshuffle the forward pack early on as Joe Tapine was unknowingly taken off the field.
The Raiders were on the back foot early on after Suliasi Vunivalu snuck past Cotric to score the opener seven minutes in.
Vunivalu doubled the Storm’s lead ten minutes later, racing past Cotric and Croker to pick up a well-timed grubber from halfback Brodie Croft.
The Raiders almost responded soon after, with a beautiful switch of play from Cotric saw Wighton kick into the corner for the returning Rapana, however the kick was too heavy.
With ten minutes to go, Vunivalu completed his hat-trick after quick passing caught the Raiders defence off guard, allowing him to score comfortably in the corner.
The Storm were gifted a penalty early in the second half, with Cameron Smith converting it from right in front to put them 16 points ahead in the match.
Slick hands in the middle of the park by new recruit John Bateman saw his pass reach co-captain Croker, who broke away from Curtis Scott and crossed the try line to get the Raiders first points on the board.
An 80 metre counter-attack from Felise Kaufusi and Vunivalu put the Storm in prime position to score, with prop Nelson Asofa-Solomoni bundling over the Raiders try line two tackles later.
With 15 minutes remaining, Croker provided Raiders fans with some hope after picking up a loose ball close to the try lone and crossing for his second of the night.
A last grasp effort from the Raiders saw Cotric put a kick infield for Wighton, but Smith was there to retrieve it as the Storm finished victorious over the Raiders.
Melbourne Storm 22 (Tries: 3 Vunivalu, Asofa-Solomoni. Goals: Smith 3/5) def. Canberra Raiders 10 (Tries: 2mCroker. Goals: Croker 1/2)