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Canberra's season is all but over after a 20-14 loss to the Melbourne Storm on a controversial night at GIO Stadium.
The news for the competition leaders wasn't all good despite the win - Cameron Smith left the field with a pectoral injury just after halftime, and was soon followed by Billy Slater on the back of a medicab after a late hit from Iosia Soliola had him laying prone on the ground in the 51st minute.
The Raiders certainly took the game to the Storm, particularly in the first half where the visiting side only led at the break courtesy of a late penalty goal, in an otherwise even contest.
Dale Finucane stormed over the line for Melbourne's first points in just the fourth minute, while Aidan Sezer got the ball down himself at the 16th to reset the scores level. The halftime penalty goal put the visitors up by two at the change of ends.
With Smith leaving the field in the minutes following halftime, the Storm stood tall and Will Chambers got into the scorers book with his side's second try after 47 minutes.
The flashpoint of the contest came four minutes later with Soliola's late, high shot levelling Billy Slater. An extended time off enabled the medical team to get the Queensland and Storm fullback safely off the park. With plenty of suggestion Soliola might be given marching orders, there were plenty of fans left surprised when
Melbourne added a goal off the back of the subsequent penalty with Munster assuming kicking duties, taking their lead to eight points. Canberra shortened the gap with fifteen to go when Nick Cotric scored but a 69th minute try to Finucane put the visitors up by ten and ultimately, the result beyond any reasonable doubt.
The Storm had a chance to make it 12 points with eight minutes to go but Munster pushed a penalty goal attempt wide, and it almost came back to bite them in the final minute when Sezer strolled over off a clever grubber inside the final minute. With Munster having been sin-binned for a professional foul in the set before, Canberra used their numbers advantage to get within six points - but declined the conversion opportunity to ensure they had at least one play to force golden point.
It wasn't to be - the Storm held on for victory. They have significant concerns over the fitness of both Slater and Smith ahead of next Sunday's home game against rivals Manly, while the Raiders have a trip to Sydney on the menu next Saturday when they're away to South Sydney.
Canberra Raiders 14 - Melbourne Storm 20
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra
Halftime Score: Canberra Raiders 6 Melbourne Storm 8
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Cameron Munster
2 points - Dale Finucane
1 points - Aidan Sezer
CANBERRA RAIDERS (14)
Tries: Aidan Sezer (2), Nick Cotric
Conversions: Jarrod Croker (1/2)
MELBOURNE STORM (20)
Tries: Dale Finucane (2), William Chambers
Conversions: Cameron Smith (1/1), Cameron Munster (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Cameron Smith (1/1), Cameron Munster (1/2)