The Canberra Raiders season is all but over after a 20-14 loss at the hands of a depleted Melbourne Storm side in a bruising encounter at GIO Stadium. The game will not be remembered for the result, as star fullback Billy Slater was knocked out cold from a brutal shot from Raiders enforcer Iosia Soliola.
The Soliola Hit
In the 50th minute of the game last night with Canberra defending desperately on their line, Iosia Soliola lined up Billy Slater and he hit him in the head with a stray arm which knocked Slater out. Soliola was not sent off which the NRL later admitting they got it wrong which left many scratching their heads. Slater was unconscious and was stretchered off in a medicab which left many fans and Kangaroos Coach Mal Meninga with their heart in their mouths, but the champion fullback signalled he was ok with the thumbs up. Melbourne will stress on the fitness of their star fullback as well as their hooker Cameron Smith who only managed to play 44 minutes with a pectoral muscle injury. Soliola will face a nervous wait to hear his fate at the NRL Judiciary with some suggesting it could be season over. This incident will lead to the referees taking further stance on incidents like this and that could very well mean the return of the send-off.
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Storm All Class
It was by no means perfect but Melbourne did what they did best and that is find a way to win. In the first half they were on the ropes, they drew first blood through Dale Finucane and then had to weather an onslaught from a gritty Raiders side. Cooper Cronk referred to the boot to get them out of trouble on many occasions but their defence stood strong the only keep Canberra to six at the break, a testament to their defence they went into the half up 8-6. In the second half they lost two of the ‘big 3’ through injury but still had enough class to get past the green machine. Lock Dale Finucane was at his best last night crossing for two tries, running for 129 metres and making 35 tackles, while representative centre Will Chambers was also very impressive crossing for a try and running for 151 metres as well as racking up three tackle breaks and making one line break. After the last nights gutsy win, the Storm have set themselves up for another minor premiership but will sweat on the injuries of Slater and Smith.
Raiders season all over
The Raiders season is hypothetically over after slumping to their eleventh loss of the season. Mathematically they can still make the top eight, but in reality it’s all over for the green machine in 2017. They were dubbed as premiership favourites before a ball was even kicked after an impressive 2016 campaign and the tag of being favourites may have just got to their heads. They never really got going in 2017 and will look to finish off the year strongly to give their fans some optimism for next season. Last night they showed glimpses of what they could potentially do but did not have enough class for 80 minutes to compete with Melbourne. There were periods in the first half to suggest they were ready to take on the big guns and make a late season surge towards the playoffs but it just isn’t to be for Canberra this season, onto the next season for Ricky Stuart and his men.
Ricky Stuart Press Conference
Canberra Coach Ricky Stuart could find himself in a sticky situation after a controversial press conference after his sides bruising loss. Stuart was very critical of the officiating and demanded that head of referees Tony Archer to take responsibility over poor decisions from the referees. The controversial Stuart could see him forking out another $10,000 from his back pocket as his ever growing list of fines continues, he has already paid a hefty $125,000 of fines for his press conferences over the years. Stuart felt his side was the better side on the night and was very sympathetic towards his side as they were heartbroken in the sheds. Ricky Stuart will probably receive another fine and warning from the NRL but that will do little to silence the Passionate Stuart.
Melbourne Storm – 20
Tries: Dale Finucane (2), Will Chambers
Goals: Cameron Smith 2/2, Cameron Munster 2/3
Canberra Raiders – 14
Tries: Aidan Sezer (2), Nick Cotric
Goals: Jarrod Croker 1/2