The Late Mail: Knights v Eels
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Struggling Storm look for spark against desperate Raiders
The Storm enter Sunday's clash in unfamiliar territory, looking to bounce back after back-to-back defeats to Manly and Cronulla.
Melbourne's usually impenetrable defence has been anything but in the past fortnight, with Craig Bellamy's men leaking 64 points to fall to third spot on the ladder.
The Storm opened the season conceding just over 12 points in the first nine rounds - the kind of numbers that win you premierships - but have gone on to let in over 25 per game since Round 10.
Last week's loss also marked the first time since 2014 that the Storm have lost three games in a season by more than 20 points.
Bellamy did not seem too concerned after that defeat to Cronulla, telling reporters that the Storm simply ran into a "pretty hot" Sharks side that would not let up.
"[In the] first half I thought our effort was pretty good," he said.
"With all due respect, their footy in that first half was pretty off the charts. I thought we were in the game at 10-nil. There's some things there that we need to improve on but I just think our effort areas tonight were a lot better than last week."
Injuries had also played their role but fortunately for Melbourne there is some good news this week on that front.
Star five-eighth Cameron Munster is set to return after he was ruled out of Origin with Covid-19, seeing Nick Meaney shift to the wing for Grant Anderson.
Harry Grant has also been named to back up from Origin while Felise Kaufusi is back from personal leave to take his spot in the second row.
The Storm will be without versatile forward Brandon Smith, who has been suspended for three weeks after he was banned at the judiciary for contrary conduct.
As for the Raiders, they remain on the fringe of the top eight and have looked every bit like a team just making up the numbers in 2022.
For all the promise they showed in wins over the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Sharks, the Raiders were unable to capitalise on that momentum, dropping two of their last three games.
Canberra scraped home against Newcastle while falling short against Brisbane and St. George Illawarra, albeit in controversial circumstances.
Telling in just how frustratingly inconsistent the Raiders have been is the fact they have gone win-loss since Round 11, with their past five games decided by single digits.
The task will only be that much harder this week in Melbourne given Canberra's dismal away record this season (won two from nine).
The Raiders will be bolstered by the availability of star duo Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii though.
Last meeting: Round 5 2022 - Raiders 16 Storm 30
Who to watch: Ryan Papenhuyzen failed to take flight last week against the Sharks, clearly still hampered by injury as the Storm were thoroughly outclassed. It may just take one try though for the Melbourne speedster to regain his confidence and start to fire. With Munster back in the frame too there will only be more for the Canberra defence to deal with, which should free up more space for Papenhuyzen scheming out the back, waiting for his chance to pounce.
As for the Raiders, the key to winning this week's game will be up front. They have the forward pack capable of taking it to Melbourne and it all starts with Queensland prop Josh Papalii. The 30-year-old is a tone-setter, the type to lead from the front early and lift his teammates with his actions. Papalii proved it earlier this year when he crashed over for a try in the first half against South Sydney, playing a pivotal role in setting up Canberra's early dominance on the way to a big win. Melbourne is guaranteed to start fast and aggressive on Sunday, keen to atone for the past fortnight's results. It will be on Papalii to match that intensity with his carries.
The favourite: The Storm are well backed to respond in a big way on Sunday.
My tip: It is hard to see Melbourne dropping three in a row. But then again, it was hard to see the Storm losing two-straight and they did just that. Still, back at home, look for Melbourne to get a few quick-fire tries on the board early and not look back. Storm by 20.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Nick Meaney 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Dean Ieremia 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harry Grant 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Josh King 14. Tyran Wishart 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Alec MacDonald 17. Jordan Grant 19. Chris Lewis
1. Xavier Savage 15. James Schiller 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali'i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 20. Corey Harawira-Naera 16. Adam Elliott 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Tom Starling 21. Emre Guler 22. Albert Hopoate 18. Brad Schneider
Referees: Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Drew Oultram; Video Referees: Grant Atkins;