Raiders aren’t pretenders they’re genuine contenders
The Raiders victory over the Storm has now confirmed them as legitimate contenders to go all the way and win the premiership. Their defence was nothing short of phenomenal. Absorbing a mountain of pressure from repeated attacking sets from the Storm inside their 20, they turned them back again and again. While they had gained notoriety in the past for their fragility in defence and tendency to switch off at periods during the games, the Raiders put in a complete 80 minute performance and the Storm were unable to break through the defensive wall they had established on Monday night.
With 7 consecutive wins and victories over the Top 2 sides on the ladder back to back the Raiders are the form team in the competition and in their 3 remaining games of the season they face two teams whose season is over in the Eels and Sea Eagles while facing a Tigers team missing their best player. With the wave of momentum they’re currently riding there’s no reason they can’t extend that winning streak to double figures in their charge to the finals.
Lethal Raiders right edge
While their defensive efforts won them the game, it was an outstanding performance from Elliott Whitehead and Joseph Leilua on the Raiders right edge that was able to tear apart the best defensive team in the comp. Before the game was even one minute old the duo combined to set up one of the tries of the season. A run from Whitehead into Blake Green that drew in Cheyse Blair allowed him to offload straight to Leilua who made a break down the field to pass to Blake Austin who continued the run to the 10m line. After falling to the ground in a tackle attempt he got back up and passed to Leilua who touched down on the 47 second mark.
Leilua wasn’t done for the night as he went on a rampaging run near the goal-line beating four defenders to put the ball down for his 2nd try. He also busted 12 tackles making him a true nightmare for the Storm to contain on Monday. Whitehead had a strong defensive game making 45 tackles and a try save while contributing well to the Raiders attack with 2 line break assists and a try assist for Leilua’s 2nd.
Should referees be forced to make a decision on-field?
Shannon Boyd scored the only try of the 2nd half as he barged over near the posts and it looked like he may have got the ball down on the grass. The decision was referred to the bunker as a ‘Try’ and on video review it was hard to see if the ball had touched the ground as the Storm defenders obscured the view. He was ultimately given the benefit of the doubt based on no conclusive evidence to overturn the live decision and the try was awarded.
As it stands it was a fair decision but had the referee ruled it as a ‘no-try’ then it would have been highly likely the bunker would have agreed with that call as well. The referee would have had the best view of what happened but in some cases it would be impossible for them to make a conclusive decision and whatever decision they go with on their video referral can make all the difference on a 50/50 call. While it is a good idea to have a call made on-field, it can also place unnecessary pressure on officials but for now it’s an imperfect system that works but has room for improvement.
Battle for minor premiership back on
A win on Monday would have all but secured top spot for the Storm but with their defeat, it now puts them one point behind the Sharks and opens the race back up between the two to claim the minor premiership and the $100 000 in prize money that comes with it. They will meet each other in the final game of the regular season in Round 26 which could prove to be the game that determines who comes away with the J. J. Giltinan Shield. The Raiders themselves have the opportunity to improve their ladder position as their victory has given them a chance to usurp the Sharks for a Top 2 finish and procure a home final in Canberra. With three rounds to go and the exact make-up of the top 4 yet to be determined it’ll be an exciting finish to the regular season ahead.
In The Sheds
Joseph Leilua came off the field late in the game with shin splints which he stated in a post-match interview. It was likely pre-cautionary as the result had been decided and there was less than 5 minutes of the game to go.
Josh Hodgson was charged with making a Grade 1 dangerous contact to the head in a grapple tackle on Jesse Bromwich. With no carryover points Hodgson will escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
Canberra Raiders– 22
Tries: Joseph Leilua (1m, 24m), Shannon Boyd (54m)
Goals: Jarrod Croker 5/5
Melbourne Storm– 8
Tries: Cooper Cronk (12m)
Goals: Cameron Smith 2/2