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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Canberra has come from an 18-0 deficit during the first half to snare a last gasp 22-18 victory over the Storm in a tough battle in Melbourne.
The Raiders had the worst possible start when Jack Wighton was sin binned in just the fourth minute. The Storm capitalised almost immediately by scoring a minute later when Cameron Munster stepped inside Aidan Sezer, put in a neat chip which bounced beautifully for Justin Olam, who scored on the left side. Cameron Smith converted.
Three minutes after Wighton returned the field, a flare up in a scrum saw Joseph Tapine sent to the sin bin, leaving the Raiders a man short for the second time in the first half. And once again, the Storm capitalised within the minute when they went left again, where Olam got a brilliant pass to Josh Addo-Carr, who scored in the left corner. Smith again converted.
Just after Tapine returned the Storm scored again, after a poor pass to Nick Cotric was stripped by Suliasi Vunivalu and the big winger ran 25 metres to score under the posts with a swan dive. Smith again converted to give the Storm an 18-0 lead after 28 minutes.
The Raiders opened their scoring with just over 6 minutes remaining in the first half, after they sent the ball left where they caught the Storm short. Elliott Whitehead got a stunning offload to Jarrod Croker who managed to just get the ball down for a try. Croker failed to convert from wide on the left side.
The Raiders got off to an immensely better start in the second half, when Josh Hodgson kicked a 40/20 in the first minute after play resumed. They were unable to capitalise on the opportunity.
In the 52nd minute Croker chased a well-placed grubber by Hodgson to score his second try. This time he converted.
With ten minutes left in the match and the Raiders in the ascendancy, they sent the ball right, finding Jordan Rapana with just enough space to slip down the touchline and dive over for a try in the corner. Croker converted from touch to reduce the deficit from 18 points to 2.
With 5 minutes left in the game, Hodgson pulled off a brilliant 1-on-1 strip, 35 metres from the Storm line. A few tackles later, he sent a crash ball to Josh Papalii and barnstorming forward powered out of a tackled and barged over for the match winning try, under the posts. Croker converted to give the Raiders an emphatic victory.
Melbourne will host bottom-of-the-table Gold Coast next round, while Canberra head home to host the Sea Eagles in another stern test of their premiership credentials.
Melbourne Storm 18 - Canberra Raiders 22
Venue: AAMI Park
Halftime Score: Melbourne Storm 18 Canberra Raiders 4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Josh Papalii
2 points - Justin Olam
1 points - Jack Wighton
MELBOURNE STORM (18)
Tries: Justin Olam, Josh Addo-Carr, Suliasi Vunivalu
Conversions: Cameron Smith (3/3)
CANBERRA RAIDERS (22)
Tries: Jarrod Croker (2), Jordan Rapana, Josh Papalii
Conversions: Jarrod Croker (3/4)