The Canberra Raiders gone within touching distance of the NRL Grand Final after defeating the Melbourne Storm 12-10 at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Despite the match being riddled with penalties, the Raiders managed to clinch a victory thanks to a late try from John Bateman, reminiscent of Round 22’s late victory against the Storm also at AAMI Park.
The Raiders are the first team to defeat Melbourne twice in one season on their home turf since the Bulldogs in 2014.
The win means the Green Machine have a week off before playing in the preliminary final at GIO Stadium, one win away from the Grand Final.
An early blow for Canberra saw Joey Leilua taken from the field before the match had even started after getting a firework shell in his eye.
Leilua’s replacement, Simonsson, got the Raiders off to a dream start after latching onto a beautiful pass from Jack Wighton and crashing his way over the try line to give an early lead.
The Raiders thought they extended their lead after Aidan Sezer’s kick got knocked back into John Bateman’s hands, who threw a looping ball over to Jordan Rapana to go over and score, yet the winger was deemed offside.
A penalty was awarded to the Green Machine after Jarrod Croker got tackled without the ball, with the co-captain opting to kick for goal and take the two, however the ball drifted left and missed.
The Raiders were awarded another penalty just three minutes later, yet the ball just drifted left again off Croker’s boot as the conversion attempt was missed.
The Melbourne Storm couldn’t break the Raiders defence, however a penalty in the final minute allowed Cameron Smith to take the two points from right in front, meaning the Raiders went into the sheds with a four-point lead.
The Raiders started the second half on the back foot as Suliasi Vunivalu leaped above Simonsson to snatch the ball out of the air and score the Storm’s first try of the match.
A late tackle from Josh Hodgson onto Melbourne’s fullback gave the home side a chance to go two points ahead, with Cameron Smith converting.
Another penalty to the Storm ten metres from the try line let C Smith go for another penalty kick and increase their lead to four with 30 minutes remaining.
With three minutes left on the clock, the ball pops out of Josh Addo-Carr’s hands and is collected by Joey Leilua, who lures the Storm defence in and flicks it off to John Bateman, who goes through untouched and puts it down under the posts.
Croker slotted the conversion with ease, meaning the Green Machine had a minute and a half of defending a strong Storm response.
A penalty on the siren for the Storm meant they got one more play from 40 metres out, however it didn’t go their way as the Canberra Raiders ran out 12-10 winners and cement a home preliminary final in two weeks time.
Canberra Raiders 12 (Tries: Simonsson, Bateman. Goals: Croker 2/4) def.
Melbourne Storm 10 (Tries: Vunivalu. Goals: C Smith 3/4)