Qualifying for their first preliminary final since 1997 the Green Machine will head down to Melbourne looking to cause a monumental upset against a heavily favoured Storm side where Cooper Cronk will play his 300th game for the club.

Last Time Out

The Melbourne Storm grinded out a narrow 16-10 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys earning themselves the past week off. It was a game that finished at two tries apiece and the Storm were lucky to score one against the run of play with Suliasi Vunivalu scooping up a poor grubber attempt from Gavin Cooper and sprinting away. Regardless of how the points came about the Storm’s defence stood tall and they took advantage of poor discipline from the Cowboys to kick three penalty goals and go ahead six points clear on the scoreboard.

The Canberra Raiders welcomed the return of Blake Austin who scored the team’s first try on their way to a less than convincing 22-12 victory. After getting out to an 18-0 lead early in the second half, there was a brief period of time heading into the last quarter of the game where they switched off and Penrith threatened to mount a comeback scoring twice to make it 18-12 before two late penalty goals helped give them some breathing space. It was a game they probably should have won by more points and another late fade may have fans concerned but in the end they won the game and earned the right to play for a spot in the Grand Final.

Key Battle

Josh Hodgson vs Cameron Smith. The leading Dally M contender from the Raiders who has played a crucial part in their stunning season against one of the greatest dummy halves of all time. Their ability to control the game for their team and their influence around the ruck will help determine the victor of this match.

Hodgson’s kicking game will have to be pinpoint on the night as his opposite number will surely be up for the challenge.

Prediction

The Raiders have a great winning record down in Melbourne and it’s not a big surprise given their traditional style of free flowing, unstructured attack acts as a perfect counter to the Storm’s grinding, methodical approach. On this occasion though I think the Storm will just be too good for the Raiders, Smith and Cronk will put on a masterclass and guide their team to the grand final.

Storm by 6+

Squads
Melbourne Storm
1 Cameron Munster
2 Suliasi Vunivalu
3 Will Chambers
4 Cheyse Blair
5 Marika Koroibete
6 Blake Green
7 Cooper Cronk
8 Jesse Bromwich
9 Cameron Smith ©
10 Jordan McLean
11 Kevin Proctor
12 Tohu Harris
13 Dale Finucane
INTERCHANGE
14 Kenny Bromwich
15 Tim Glasby
16 Christian Welch
17 Ben Hampton
20 Matt White
21 Felise Kaufusi

Canberra Raiders
1 Jack Wighton
2 Edrick Lee
3 Jarrod Croker ©
4 Joseph Leilua
5 Jordan Rapana
6 Blake Austin
7 Aidan Sezer
8 Junior Paulo
9 Josh Hodgson
10 Shannon Boyd
11 Josh Papalii
12 Elliott Whitehead
13 Iosia Soliola
INTERCHANGE
14 Kurt Baptiste
15 Luke Bateman
16 Paul Vaughan
17 Joseph Tapine