The Raiders came from behind to win against the Storm for the second time inside a month.
The Melbourne Storm hosted the Canberra Raiders for the second time in five weeks as the two top four sides battled it out in the second qualifying final of the weekend. The Storm entered this contest as favourites despite losing to the Raiders in their last meeting. It was a bizarre start to the match with Joey Leilua put on the bench before kick-off due to a piece of firework going into his eye as the team ran out. This didn’t stop the Raiders, with replacement Bailey Simonsson scoring the opening try in the third minute after he bumped off Ryan Papenhuyzen. The Raiders continued to attack the Storm but the away side was given another obstacle with Nick Cotric departing the field after copping an accidental boot to the head from Papenhuyzen. The young winger’s night was ended early as Leilua returned to the field to take his place. The Raiders had two opportunities to extend their lead during the last ten minutes of the opening half but failed to do so as Jarrod Croker missed two tough penalty goals. The Storm were able to add two points to their total just before the break with a penalty goal.
The Storm took the lead early in the second half as Suliasi Vunivalu out-jumped his opposition winger and took a brilliant catch as Cameron Smith failed to convert. Two penalty goals followed in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. The 10-6 scoreline seemed to last forever as both teams failed to take control of the game. The longer the Storm held onto this lead the more energy it took out of the Raiders, however this didn’t stop the Green Machine, as a hit from Joseph Tapine dislodged the ball from Josh Addo-Carr’s hands just 10 metres in front of the home side’s try line. Leilua proceeded to pick the ball up and put John Bateman under him as he strolled through to score under the posts. Jarrod Croker converted to give the Raiders a two-point lead with a minute remaining. The Storm tried their best to regain the ball of a short kick-off and did so successfully until the referees ruled that Vunivalu had touched the sideline as he came down. The Raiders saw out the final minute to clinch the two-point win. They will host a preliminary final in two weeks’ time.
Storm Fail to Secure Home Preliminary Final
It was the first time since 2014 that the Melbourne Storm have failed to secure a home preliminary final. Melbourne came into this match having won their previous four qualifying finals but were undone by a brilliant Raiders outfit. The Storm will host either the Parramatta Eels or the Brisbane Broncos next week.
Bailey Simonsson’s Heroic Effort
Outside back Bailey Simonsson was brought into the starting line-up at the latest stage possible, replacing Joey Leilua. Simonsson was one of the Raiders’ best performers tonight as he ran for 182 metres, including 2 line breaks, 6 tackle breaks and a try.
John Bateman and Josh Papalii Charge their Way to a Home Preliminary Final
The two key forwards for the Raiders didn’t let Melbourne intimidate them as they combined for 298 run metres and 60 tackles. They were the only Raiders forwards to notch up 100 metres or more. Englishman John Bateman also broke seven tackles and scored the match-winning try.
Melbourne Storm’s Path to the Final
The Melbourne Storm shouldn’t let this result affect their performance next week. The minor premiers will play either Parramatta or Brisbane and will be considered strong favourites. A win for the Storm would set up a grand final rematch against the Roosters in a preliminary final at the SCG.
Melbourne Storm 10
Tries: Suliasi Vunivalu
Goals: Cameron Smith 3/4
Canberra Raiders 12
Tries: Bailey Simonsson, John Bateman
Goals: Jarrod Croker 2/4
Melbourne Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Max King 17. Joe Stimson.
Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 14. Bailey Simonsson 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 15. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine. Interchange: 4. Joseph Leilua 8. Josh Papalii 16. Corey Horsburgh 19. Emre Guler.