Aaron Sutcliffe reviews the Round 22 opener between Melbourne and Canberra on the Sunshine Coast. Here’s how the game went.
Tries: Brandon Smith (9), Dean Ieremia (14), Chris Lewis (20)
Goals: Nicho Hynes (11,15, 22, 31 – pen), Ryan Papenhuyzen (58 – pen, 77 – pen, 79 – pen)
Tries: Bailey Simonsson (3, 46, 53)
Goals: Sam Williams (48, 55)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)
2 pts – Bailey Simonsson (Canberra Raiders)
1 pt – Nicho Hynes (Melbourne Storm)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Melbourne met Canberra at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland with the Raiders in desperate need of a victory to maintain their hopes of securing a top-eight finish whilst the Storm were aiming to move one step closer to winning the minor premiership with just four rounds left to play.
Canberra started the game on the front foot and were rewarded with a try after just three minutes when Jack Wighton threw a peach of a pass out to the returning Bailey Simonsson who finished well in the corner with Jarrod Croker’s conversion attempt coming back off the post.
The Storm responded on nine minutes when Brandon Smith saw an opportunity out of dummy-half and dove over the line to score his 10th try of the season with Nicho Hynes comfortably slotting the conversion.
Melbourne struck again just five minutes later when Reimis Smith found Dean Ieremia out wide who broke the line and held off tackles from both Croker and Jordan Rapana to score underneath the sticks.
The Storm were at their relentless best on the Sunshine Coast when Chris Lewis went over for their third try in the space of 11 minutes after Cameron Munster offloaded the ball to Lewis who cruised over the line.
The ladder leaders were given a chance to increase their advantage when Ryan Sutton stripped the ball close to the Raiders’ try-line which allowed Hynes to extend Melbourne’s lead to 16 points.
The Green Machine almost clawed their way back into the game just before half-time when Matthew Timoko produced some superb footwork to see off Munster before losing control of the ball when attempting to dot down under pressure from a Storm player.
It was another sumptuous 40 minutes from Melbourne as they looked to secure an 18th successive win in the NRL to move within one victory of the Eastern Suburbs Roosters’ record set 46 years previously.
HALF-TIME: Melbourne Storm 20 Canberra Raiders 4Embed from Getty Images
Canberra gave themselves hope of an unlikely comeback on 46 minutes when, in a carbon copy of their first score, Wighton threw a pass out wide for Simonsson who dove over in the corner to reduce the deficit with Sam Williams adding the extras from a tough angle.
The Raiders duo combined for a third try on 53 minutes when Wighton collected a loose ball before quickly shifting the ball out to Simonsson who raced over the line to complete his hat-trick with Williams once again converting from the sideline.
However, the Milk conceded two penalties for high tackles in the space of a minute which allowed Ryan Papenhuyzen to kick a simple penalty to extend Melbourne’s lead to six points with just over 20 minutes left to play.
The Green Machine wasted a series of chances to capitalise on Melbourne’s ill-discipline: the highlight of which saw Ieremia acrobatically keep the ball in play when Canberra attempted to find touch from a penalty.
Melbourne came within a whisker of sealing the two points when a superb kick from Harry Grant was touched down by Smith only for the ball to have been deemed to be touching the dead-ball line.
The Raiders finished the game with 12 players after Corey Harawira-Naera was sent off for making contact on Jahrome Hughes’ head with his shoulder with Papenhuyzen kicking the resulting penalty to put Melbourne two scores in-front.
The reigning champions added a further two points with the final kick of the game to secure a 10-point victory, a fourth successive win against the Raiders and an 18th straight success in the NRL to move four points clear at the top of the ladder with three matches left to play.
For Canberra, it will feel like a missed opportunity to strengthen their grip on a place in the top eight, having endured an error-strewn final quarter when well-placed to trouble the Storm and bring the game level; they will now need other results to go their way to retain their position on the ladder.
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Storm 26 Canberra Raiders 16
Dale Finucane (Storm) – HIA
Jarrod Croker (Raiders) – failed HIA
Jahrome Hughes (Storm) – failed HIA
Match Review Committee
Corey Harawira-Naera (Raiders) – sent off – Grade 3 High Tackle Reckless – Early Guilty Plea 3 match ban, Guilty at Judiciary 4 match ban