Mitch Bourke reviews Melbourne’s unforgiving victory over Canberra. Here’s how the game went.
|4th||Try Jesse Bromwich (Storm)||Storm 4-0|
|6th||Goal Cameron Smith (Storm)||Storm 6-0|
|6th||Try Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)||Storm 10-0|
|8th||Goal Cameron Smith (Storm)||Storm 12-0|
|9th||Try Suliasi Vunivalu (Storm)||Storm 16-0|
|15th||Goal Cameron Smith (Storm)||Storm 18-0|
|23rd||Try Justin Olam (Storm)||Storm 22-0|
|24th||Goal Cameron Smith (Storm)||Storm 24-0|
|29th||Try Nick Cotric (Raiders)||Storm 24-4|
|31st||Goal Jarrod Croker (Raiders)||Storm 24-6|
|62nd||Try Dale Finucane (Storm)||Storm 28-6|
|63rd||Goal Cameron Smith (Storm)||Storm 30-6|
|71st||Try Nick Cotric (Raiders)||Storm 30-10|
Before the game, Craig Bellamy spoke about the importance of a fast start, but his players went above and beyond, delivering a gobsmacking three tries in the opening 10 minutes.
An Elliott Whitehead knock-on as he attempted to kick sacrificed precious Canberra field position, and Jesse Bromwich made them pay the ultimate price, storming through from close range off the back of Jahrome Hughes’ superbly timed pass.
Some sharp Storm passing deep in their own half sent Josh Addo-Carr blazing through the backfield with Ryan Papenhuyzen in support: an unstoppable duo that rendered last man Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad a spectator.
Melbourne’s ruthless onslaught showed no signs of slowing down after Semi Valemei fumbled Hughes’ bomb under immense pressure, and Felise Kaufusi was able to keep the ball alive. Hughes retrieved the loose footy and danced his way past Raiders defenders before flicking it out to Suliasi Vunivalu, who was able to feign a kick as he treaded the touchline tightrope, sealing their third try inside 10 minutes with an outrageous run.
Opting against the tap-and-go, Cameron Smith utilised a penalty to make amends for his missed conversion and put the Storm 18-0 up.
Canberra finally received some sort of break when a sliding Addo-Carr was denied by the Bunker, deemed to have not applied downward pressure when he grounded the ball: a somewhat staggering decision, and one the naked eye was oblivious to.
Undeterred, Melbourne continued to hound the Raiders’ rattled defence: their fourth unanswered try coming to fruition as Justin Olam put on his cape and flew through the in-goal, Nick Cotric having had an air-swing attempting to swat Papenhuyzen’s elusive grubber dead.
Not doing a potential turnaround any favours, Nicoll-Klokstad was forced from the field for a HIA, with Jordan Rapana making the short-term switch to fullback.
Corey Harawira-Naera threatened, before usual perpetrator George Williams placed his chip on a dime, and Cotric soared over Addo-Carr in the right corner for Canberra’s first points, planting the seeds of a potential comeback.
The Raiders came close again before the half’s conclusion: Siliva Havili lost the ball as he went to play it close to the line, although replays revealed it was helped out by a Storm hand, which went unnoticed. They survived a scare when Valemei faltered under the high ball again, this time unable to get a hand to it: the 24-6 scoreline remained intact at the half.
The Raiders made their second half intentions clear from the kick-off, starting with a bang as they dragged Dale Finucane 15 metres to the in-goal. That play appeared to be the catalyst for a Canberra comeback, but instead sparked the Storm.
The Raiders wasted their field position, as they so often did, and Melbourne retaliated – driving Nicoll-Klokstad 10 metres to his own in-goal.
Addo-Carr laid a huge try-saving tackle on Rapana soon after. Fired up was an understatement.
Having proved impenetrable and withstanding Canberra’s push, Melbourne could taste a grand final berth, and their milestone man put them one step closer. Hughes’ chip was batted back by Vunivalu and the Steeden skipped into the lap of Dale Finucane, who bee-lined for Nicoll-Klokstad and bounced off him, scoring a try to celebrate his 200th game.
A frantic play and absurd bounce had Cotric destined to score and breathe life into the contest late, but Cameron Smith thought otherwise, producing an emphatic chase-down tackle and pulling Cotric short.
It was too little too late, but a pinpoint Rapana flick allowed Cotric to cross the line for his double in the 71st minute, with Canberra trailing by 20.
The scoreline wound up 30-10: the crushing Melbourne victory an imminent warning for their grand final opponent next week.
Whilst John Bateman was unable to end his Raiders career the way he wanted, Cameron Smith hinted at retirement, and his final game at Suncorp Stadium. Subbed off with five minutes remaining, Smith left the field from the far side and embarked on a half-lap of honour, before being chaired off to a guard of honour after the game.
Despite the obvious speculation, Smith refused to give anything away in the post-match press conference.
Not one, not two, but three. Melbourne went bang, bang, bang in the opening stanza: looking back, the game was won by the 10th minute. It was a sublime period, as they barely mis-stepped, and executed at every opportunity. It was one of the most dominant periods of the season (if not the most dominant), and in just over a week’s time we could be lauding it as the moment the Storm were in premiership form.
Melbourne Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Brenko Lee, 4. Justin Olam, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Tino Faasuamaleui, 17. Nicho Hynes, 18. Dale Finucane.
Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 5. Semi Valemei, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Jordan Rapana, 2. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 14. Siliva Havili, 16. Hudson Young, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joseph Tapine. Interchange: 9. Tom Starling, 10. Iosia Soliola, 15. Dunamis Lui, 17. Corey Harawira-Naera.