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Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy celebrated his 100th victory at the helm of the club after his side produced a 30-14 home win over interstate rivals Canberra Raiders at Olympic Park today.
It looked like Bellamy's week was heading from bad to worse as Canberra, who were looking for their first victory on Melbourne soil since 2000, started the proceedings strongly. Opening the scoring was Raider Joel Monaghan who finished off a well worked try. Todd Carney missed the conversion from the sideline to leave the silenced home fans looking at a 4-0 scoreboard.
There were signs of an Origin 'Hangover' early on for a lackluster Melbourne, with many of its players backing up from Wednesday's decider. Canberra were playing determined football in the first half hour with not much to show for on the scoreboard while Melbourne continued to make unforced errors.
It wasnt until the 33rd minute that last year's premiers got their act together. This resulted in Anthony Quinn diving over for the home side with a well executed backline play. Cam Smith was unable to convert.
The last five minutes of the half was disastrous for the Raiders as Melbourne scored two quick-fire tries before the break to race out to a 16-4 lead. Cam Smith put a deft grubber behind the Canberra defensive line from close range which bounced into the flying Slater's hands. The second was set up superbly by Cooper Cronk, playing in his 100th first grade match, whose cross-field chip was caught beautifully on Sika Manu's diving finger tips, reminiscent of Greg Dowling's famous origin try in 1984.
Neil Henry couldn't have asked for a better start to the second stanza from his Canberra team with Todd Carney diving over from close range after a offload from Michael Weyman who committed three Storm players in the tackle. But a relatively soft Storm try less than ten minutes later would have left Henry dejected as the ever silky Greg Inglis strolled through a gaping hole ten metres out to put the home side in a commanding 22-10 lead.
The stop-start affair continued during the match with both teams letting themselves down with basic errors. Melbourne's backline clicked again in the 65th minute with a sideline to sideline try resulting in Steve Turner crossing the chalk, but it was the magic of Billy Slater minutes later that had the Olympic Park faithful on their feet. Receiving the ball 40 metres out from his own goal line, Slater chip over the tired Raiders defence and was the first one to the ball. Instead of collecting the ball for himself, Slater kicked the ball to the right hand corner for a flying Inglis to collect the ball and dive over for arguably the most exciting try of the season.
The Canberra side finished the game on a bright note, scoring a consolation try to Marshall Chalk with just over five minutes on the clock however at that stage the game was well and truly cemented in Melbourne's hands.
After weeks of unsettlement amongst its player ranks due to Origin commitments, it was their Origins superstars who set up the 30-14 victory. Cam Smith, Greg Inglis and Man of the Match Billy Slater being the pick of the bunch.
Melbourne will be pleased with the two points they gained this afternoon as they head to Campbelltown Stadium to face a desperate Wests Tigers outfit next Monday night. Canberra travel to Wollongong next Sunday to battle a red-hot Dragons team.
Match Details Melbourne Storm 30 def Canberra Raiders 14 Round 17 - July 6th, 2008 2:00pm Venue: Olympic Park, Melb Referee: Ben Cummins Half time: Storm 16-4 Crowd: 11,719
Melbourne Storm 30 Tries: Anthony Quinn, Billy Slater, Sika Manu, Greg Inglis (2), Steve Turner Goals: Cameron Smith (3/5) Canberra Raiders 14 Tries: Joel Monaghan, Todd Carney, Marshall Chalk Goals: Todd Carney (1/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Billy Slater (Storm) 2 Points: Cooper Cronk (Storm) 1 Point: Joel Monaghan (Raiders)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
The Melbourne Storm will welcome back its representative stars with open-arms this afternoon as they tackle the Canberra Raiders on home soil. Its been an unsettling time for the Storm as the club has had its squad vastly depleted over recent weeks due to State of Origin commitments. This has seen Melbourne lose all three games leading up to Origin.
One player who hasn't had the extra burden of Origin football is Cooper Cronk, who will look to stamp his authority on the game, making his 100th NRL appearance. He will join 18 other Storm players who have reached this feat for the club. Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy will no doubt be looking to put the devastation of coaching NSW to its third straight series lost behind him, as his troops attempt to notch up 13 straight wins against the Raiders and cement a place in the top four.
For the Canberra side, it's the ultimate task, the toughest road trip in the competition - Olympic Park, a ground they have not won at since 2000. The Raiders away form has been inconsistent at best this season and money suggests they'll have their backs against the wall again this afternoon, especially after the dazzling form of Melbourne superstars Greg Inglis and Israel Folau in Queensland's Origin series victory. Not a promising sign for Canberra as it was their defence that let them down last Monday night at home to Cronulla, conceding 36 points.
Touch Judges: David Abood, Steve Carrall Video Referee: Russell Smith
STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Matt Geyer 4. Israel Folau 5. Anthony Quinn 6. Greg Inglis 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jeff Lima 9. Cam Smith (c) 10. Brett White 11. Michael Crocker 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Jeremy Smith 15. Adam Blair 16. Sika Manu 17. Joseph Tomane; Reserves: 18. Antonio Kaufusi RAIDERS: 1. David Milne 2. Justin Carney 3. Colin Best 4. Joel Monaghan 5. Bronx Goodwin 6. Terry Campese 7. Todd Carney 8. Troy Thompson 9. Glen Buttriss 10. Dane Tilse 11. Glen Turner 12. Joe Picker 13. Alan Tongue (c) Interchange: 14. Josh Miller 15. Ryan Hinchcliffe 16. Trevor Thurling 17. Michael Weyman 18. Brett Kelly
min: Last minute changes for Canberra. Marshall Chalk in for Justin Carney, Adrian Purtell replaces Bronx Goodwin, Josh Miller comes into the run-on side to replace Alan Tongue. Nigel Plum and Scott Logan come on to the bench. Trevor Thurling drops out of the 17.
Melbourne have just the one change: Jeremy Smith comes in to the starting line-up for Michael Crocker. Antonio Kafusi and Aiden Tolman come on to the bench. Joseph Tomane drops out of the team.
1 min: Play is underway at a windy Olympic Park, with the Raiders kicking off
3 min: Heavy head clash between Troy Thompson and Ryan Hoffman leads both players dazed. Both still on field
5 min: Exciting play from Melbourne, Billy Slater looking dangerous bringing the ball out from his own try line
6 min: All signs leading to an exciting afternoon of football. Storm concede 2nd penalty. Raiders start set 30 metres out from storm line.
8 min: Forward pass from Campese on attack ease pressure for Melbourne. Still no score.
10 min: TRY Canberra Raiders Monaghan crosses the chalk for a well constructed Canberra try going through 6 sets of hands. Conversion attempt by Carney unsuccessful.
14 min: Melbourne looking dangerous on attack, Cronk's grubber kick slighty too far for a chasing Slater, as the ball goes over dead ball line.
17 min: Hoffman coughs it up as Melbourne let another opportunity on attack go to waste.
18 min: Pleasing performance from the Green Machine in the early stages.
19 min: Raiders will have to adjust to Olympic Parks small in-goals as another kick spills over the dead ball line
22 min: Brilliant 40/20 from crowd favourite Cam Smith.
23 min: Hoffman spills the ball again with an open line ahead of him.
25 min: Video ref intervenes and awards Melbourne penalty on the halfway line for a strip. Melbourne on attack.
26 min: You can feel the heat boil from Bellamys face as his side turns over the ball once again.
27 min: Video ref awards no try as Monaghan knocks on a bomb.
28 min: Miserable end to the Storms set as they are lacking their usual fluency.
32 min: Canberra holding their nerve as they still lead this low scoring fixture. Crowd doing their best to rev-up the Storm.
30 min: Canberra holding their nerve as they still lead this low scoring fixture. Crowd doing their best to rev-up the Storm
33 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Nice back line play as Anthony Quinn dives over for a nice finish. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 4-4
37 min: Crucial time for Canberra, as Melbourne back on attack
37 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Deft grubber from dummy half Cam Smith, bounces into Slater's hands. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 10-4
40 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Magnificent Cronk cross-field chip followed by a great finger tipped catch from Manu resulting in another Storm four pointer. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 16-4
It took the reigning premiers 30 minutes, but once the Storm hit their straps it would of been incredibly frustrating hearing the half time hooter sound. Three tries in the last 7 minutes have resulted in a 16-4 half time score, a score deflating for the Raiders who were strong on heart and determination.
41 min: Second half underway at a bleak Olympic Park
43 min: Canberra will have the first chance to add to the scoreboard in the second half after forcing a line drop out
45 min: TRY Canberra Raiders Perfect start to the second stanza for Canberra. Carney dives over next to the left upright after Weyman offloads with a number of Storm players on top of him one metre out from the line Conversion attempt by Todd Carney successful. Melbourne Storm 16-10
50 min: Inglis struggling with what looks to be a back injury. The arm-wrestle continues
52 min: Dumb play from Logan as he embarrasses himself falling on a Storm player while trying to play the ball. Penalty to the Storm
53 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Beautifully worked maneuver from Melbourne off the back of the scrum. An inside ball from Dallas Johnson sends Greg Inglis into a gaping hole as he strolls over untouched. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 22-10
55 min: Basic errors letting Melbourne down as they drop the ball first set after scoring.
62 min: Hoffman's third knock on for the day. Melbourne look dangerous when they do hold on to the ball.
65 min: TRY Melbourne Storm A sweeping sideline to sideline play has seen Steve Turner cross over for his 5th try of the season. Conversion right into the teeth of the strong Melbourne breeze Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 26-10
68 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Unbelievable skills shown by Billy 'The Kid' Slater sees Greg Inglis grab a double. Slater chipped over the Canberra defence line from his own 40 metre line but instead of the standard regather he booted the ball ahead for Inglis who won the chase and scored one of the tries of the season. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 30-10
73 min: TRY Canberra Raiders The Raiders put some respectability back into the scoreboard with a clinical try. Weak defence from Melbourne as the game is all but sewn up. Conversion attempt by Todd Carney unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 30-14
80 min: Thats the ball game. A satisfactory result for Melbourne in what was a scrappy but predictable affair.