The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Melbourne Storm 22 v Canberra Raiders 12
at Olympic Park, Melbourne
Referees: Shayne Hayne
Melbourne has continued their impressive home ground advantage in beating the Canberra Raiders today by 22-12 at Olympic Park. The win places the Storm 4 points clear at the top of the table, despite injuries to speedsters Greg Inglis and Billy Slater, adding to a remarkable season for the Victorian-based club.
Canberra took a 2-nil lead early in the game through a penalty goal from captain Clinton Schifcofske. It was to be their only points of the first half though, with the Storm dominating possession from that point in.
Storm second-rower David Kidwell scored the first of his two tries in the 7th minute when he went himself out of dummy half close to the line, catching the Raiders forwards napping.
He was at it again ten minutes later when classy halfback Cooper Cronk turned the ball inside to him allowing for a clear run to the line. Cronk was in the thick of things on his very next touch two minutes later, shaping an awkward kick for his stampeding three-quarters with Chris Walker falling on the ball to score.
At that point the Raiders dug in for a period of time before a truly bizarre passage of play. Ryan Hoffman was twice denied a try in the 34th and 36th minutes of the game through a combination of forward passes and obstructions. Showing character and determination, Hoffman gobbled up a ball in the 38th minute that was batted back by Matt Geyer to finally register a four-pointer and put his team ahead 22-2 and cruising into halftime.
But you?ve got to wonder if Melbourne?s oranges were replaced with something more sinister at the break as they failed to score a single point in the second half.
Instead it was Canberra who got on the board early through veteran second-rower Jason Croker. With centre Matt King interfering in a cut-out pass the ball ricocheted into Croker?s head and travelled forward into the in-goal area where he gleefully pounced on the loose pill.
For the next 30 minutes both sides gave very little with the game lowering itself into some scrappy patches throughout. Both sides made line breaks but were unable to capitalise on them, a feature of the defence being Schifcofske?s classic tackling. I don?t know how much they pay that bloke, but it?s not enough.
Chris Walker went close to scoring his double in the 75th minute of the game but the ball beat him over the line. Canberra then collected a late consolation try in the 78th minute through Queensland Origin hero Adam Mogg who dummied close to the line and scored. With Schifcofske?s conversion the final scoreline was 22-12 but not before the odd scuffle broke out, demonstrating an undercurrent of dislike between the two most southern clubs on the mainland.
Melbourne Storm: 22
Tries: Chris Walker, Ryan Hoffman, David Kidwell(2)
Goals: Cameron Smith 3/4
Canberra Raiders: 12
Tries: Jason Croker, Adam Mogg
Goals: Clinton Schifcofske 2/3
Halftime: Melbourne 22-2
By the Clock:
Cool and slippery day down here at Olympic Park in our Southern Capital of Victoria. It shouldn't faze the Raiders considering their climate, so we should be in for a good game of footy.
Plenty of changes in the forwards and bench for both teams. 1-7 are unchanged however:
Melbourne has promoted Ian Donnelly to the starting side with Garrett Crossman out. Dallas Johnson is also out with Jamie Feeney being promoted to the starting side. Blair and Samau drop off the bench for Smith, Kaufusi, Friend and Cross.
For the Raiders, Jason Williams starts at prop for Troy Thompson and Alan Rothery replaces the injured Tom Learoyd-Lars. Ben Jones is at lock with Alan Tongue moving to hooker following Simon Woolford's withdrawal. Trevor Thurling and Dane Tilse join Marshall Chalk and Michael Weyman on the bench.
1 min: NEWS Canberra get us underway in the first half.
2 min: PENALTY GOAL Canberra Raiders
The Raiders open the scoring with a penalty goal by Schifcofske following some hands in the play the ball area from Melbourne.
7 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Bunnies-bound backrower David Kidwell barges over from close range to post Melbourne's first try of the day. Smith adds the extras as the home team take the lead.
13 min: NEWS Melbourne pressuring Canberra well with a charge down by Hill earning them another set of six. Canberra have dug in though and look for them to sneak up on the Storm.
16 min: NEWS The Storm dominating possession with over 2/3 of the ball at the moment.
17 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Kidwell bags a double as Cronk turns it inside for him to beat Weyman and score 10m left of the posts. He's going great guns at the moment. Smith converts again.
19 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
The Storm are running riot! Chris Walker latches onto a loose ball after Cronk put a clever chip/bomb near the Raiders line. Canberra let it bounce to their peril and are letting this one get away from them.
24 min: NEWS Raiders dig themselves out of trouble with a great 40-20 from Todd Carney and an opportunity to attack.
30 min: NEWS Storm press the Raiders line but Webster in held up.
34 min: NEWS Storm narrowly miss out on another try after Hill popped the ball close to the line for Hoffman only to have it ruled forward.
36 min: NEWS Hoffman denied for the second time in two minutes, this time for an obstruction. The video ref has ruled that Donnelly took Withers out of the action and Hoffman went through the gap to cross the line.
38 min: TRY Melbourne Storm
Persistence pays off for Ryan Hoffman as he finally scores a legitimate try. Cronk put the ball up on the western flank and Geyer batted it back over the head of Crawley for the barnstorming backrower. Smith misses his first for the day but the Storm take the margin out to 20 point.
40 min: NEWS Halftime: The boys hit the sheds with Melbourne holding a commanding 22-2 lead against the Raiders. They have dominated possession though, so you would expect that to be the case. Canberra can get back into the contest if they manage to hold the ball and play constructive footy, but the Storm will have plenty to say about that and should continue their winning ways at the top of the ladder.
41 min: NEWS Melbourne restart play in the second half.
44 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
A good start to the second half by the Raiders as they score through Jason Croker's head. The ball swung wide and Melbourne's Matt King dashed up close to the line to intercept only to propel the ball into Croker's noggin. The burly second rower dived on the loose ball and scored. Schifcofske misses the goal from the sideline.
53 min: NEWS Kidwell's off the field with a bit of a knock. Both sides settling into a groove at the moment.
60 min: NEWS some scrappy play here as both sides seem to have lost their way a bit.
70 min: NEWS Alan Tongue held up over the line.
71 min: NEWS A bit of a scuffle breaks out between Webster and Frawley as the boys get a bit frustrated. It has added a spark of excitement to an otherwise dull half of footy.
75 min: NEWS Walker narrowly misses scoring a double as the ball goes dead. Schifcofske has defended superbly in this second half.
78 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
Mogg dummies his way through the defence close to the line for a nice consolation try. Schifcofske converts and the Raiders have put in a good effort today.
80 min: NEWS A fight breaks out on the fulltime siren with the boys letting off a bit of steam. Melbourne were always in control but will be disappointed that they didn't score a single point in the second half.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - David Kidwell
2 - Cooper Cronk
1 - Clinton Schifcofske