At the start of the season and looking at this match, you would have thought this was potentially a top of the table clash, however, with the Melbourne Storm having wrapped up the minor premiership three games ago and the Canberra Raiders are out of contention for a finals spot, this match is essentially a dead-rubber.
Last Time Out
Melbourne were ruthless, clinical and deadly against a hapless South Sydney Rabbitohs side running away with a 64-6 victory. The Storm faithful were treated to a clinic from their boys as it rained tries at AAMI Park. In the biggest victory of the season across the whole of the NRL, the Storm wingers were arguably the best on ground, with both Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu bagging hattricks in the thumping victory. Vunivalu was in particular, the man of the match with Fijian flyer running for 253 metres, making four line breaks and being directly involved in four tries. Melbourne rubber stamped their top position as well as sending out a Storm warning to the whole competition.
The Canberra Raiders piled on the points against the Newcastle Knights running out 46-28 victors. Canberra were on right from the start rushing off to an early 14-0 lead but to Newcastle’s credit, they stayed in it. Canberra eventually swept the Knights out of the water but two late tries to Newcastle made the score somewhat respectable. Raiders fullback Jack Wighton was outstanding, Wighton crossed the line for a try, ran for 105 metres, made five tackle breaks and assisted two tries. Prolific finisher Jordan Rapana was also on fire, scoring three tries, making three line breaks and running for 151 metres. Canberra were officially ruled out of finals contention after both the North Queensland Cowboys and Manly Sea Eagles both recorded tight victories.
Both sides arguably boast the best wing combinations in the league. Melbourne have Addo-Carr and Vunivalu who have 41 tries between them and Canberra have Rapana and teenage sensation Nick Cotric who have 36 tries between them. For a neutral, this match has the potential to be a high scoring affair with both sets of wingers abilities to find the stripe, it will be all about which side can execute their chances better. The flying flanks must be operated through the foundation of the forwards, so it’s not only the wingers who are set for a big battle, it’s also the forward packs and the foundation they lay for the classy outside backs to play off. Melbourne have the slight edge in the forward battle and it’s hard to see them losing that battle.
This game may be a dead rubber, but Melbourne would love to send off departing legend Cooper Cronk a winner in his final regular season game at AAMI park. Melbourne fullback Billy Slater will meet Canberra enforcer Iosia Soliola for the first time since the controversial hit back in round 20, Slater will hope for a better outcome this week. For Canberra only playing for pride, it means no pressure footy and we could see the best saved until last, but the Storm should have too much and will look to maintain their momentum into September.
Melbourne by 10
Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders, Saturday 2 September, 7:30 at AAMI Park
Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Tim Glasby 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Slade Griffin 18. Robbie Rochow 19. Joe Stimson 20. Young Tonumaipea 21. Nate Myles
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 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. Elliot Whitehead 13. Iosia Soliola 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Dave Taylor 17. Luke Bateman 18. Jeff Lima 19. Clay Priest 20. Royce Hunt 21. Michael Oldfield