Andrew Pelechaty reviews Canberra’s country NSW home game against Melbourne at Wagga Wagga …
Canberra Raiders 16
Tries: Semi Valemei (32), Nick Cotric (70)
Goals: Brad Schneider (5 – pen, 33, 70, 79 – pen)
Melbourne Storm 30
Tries: Jahrome Hughes 2 (19, 74), Harry Grant (13), Ryan Papenhuyzen (22), Justin Olam (48)
Goals: Ryan Papenhuyzen (15, 19, 22, 48, 75)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
There was a late change for Canberra, with Ryan Sutton starting for Hudson Young (toe injury) – his first NRL game for 2022. The Raiders started the day well, with their NSW Cup side beating Mounties (a former Raiders feeder club) in the curtain raiser. Xavier Savage missed the second half as he was elevated to 18th Man for first grade.
Canberra opened the scoring with a Brad Schneider penalty goal after five minutes.
Melbourne had an early chance when Matt ”Three Knees” Timoko tried a risky offload in-goal, but a Storm player knocked it forward before it could be grounded.
There was another close call when Nick Cotric fumbled the ball on his goal-line, giving Melbourne prime attacking territory. Nelson Asofa-Solomona (with a Colin Miller-style red and blue hair) went close to scoring off the next set but fell short.
Harry Grant finally cracked open The Milk with a dummy half dart. Ryan Papenhuyzen converted to give Melbourne a 6-2 lead after 15 minutes.
Melbourne piled the pressure on Canberra in the next five minutes (helped by some Six Again calls); the Raiders tried hard to hold them off before Jahrome Hughes broke them: Melbourne 12-2 up.
Papenhuyzen made it three tries in nine minutes to give Melbourne an 18-2 lead. While Canberra’s effort and attitude was better after a poor second half against Manly Warringah, it already looked like a long day in the dirt, not helped by a few errors.
Canberra had a chance to score, spreading it left-to-right, but Jordan Rapana lost the ball trying to throw an impossible pass. There was another lost ball in scoring position – from Matt Timoko – soon after. If Canberra had any hope, they needed to convert these chances.
Semi Valemei finally scored for Canberra (off another left-to-right shift) in the 32nd minute, to keep the Raiders in touch at 18-8. Bad news for Melbourne, with Papenhuyzen going off with a HIA after trying to tackle Valemei. It was Semi who scored late in the first half against the Gold Coast to begin Canberra’s huge comeback. Could Canberra do it again, even against the clinical and professional Storm? Craig Bellamy wouldn’t have been happy though, especially with Melbourne’s uncharacteristic 15 missed tackles.
HALF-TIME: Canberra Raiders 8 Melbourne Storm 18Embed from Getty Images
Bad news for Canberra at half-time, with Timoko ruled out for the rest of the game.
While Canberra blew an early opportunity, they earnt a goal-line drop out soon after but couldn’t convert it.
Melbourne soon got a prime scoring chance when Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad dropped a bomb. And then scored through Justin Olam directly from the scrum.
There was a blow for Canberra, with captain Elliott Whitehead off with a HIA after a high tackle.
Canberra blew another try-scoring chance when Corey Harawira-Naera dropped a CNK pass. It summed up Canberra’s frustrating afternoon – competing with Melbourne but failing to convert chances. And then there was a forward pass to CNK close to Melbourne’s line: more poor execution to go with their poor completion rate.
As for Melbourne, they seemed content to keep their lead, play the percentages, and let Canberra shoot themselves in the foot over and over. But would Craig Bellamy be happy with their lack of ruthlessness?
Canberra finally scored off the scrum through Nick Cotric off a right-to-left spread. Brad Schneider converted to close the gap to 24-14 with 10 minutes left. For all their mistakes and poor finishing, the Milk’s fight had to be admired.
Jahrome Hughes sealed the game for Melbourne (his second try), stepping through Canberra’s defence to score.
Canberra kept fighting until the end, successfully winning a Captain’s Challenge, and taking the penalty goal.
Though Melbourne won as expected, it was more workman-like than their slaughter of Canterbury-Bankstown last weekend. Melbourne was cruising at 18-2 up midway through the first half and did enough to keep a mistake-riddled Raiders (who completed 27/42 sets) at arm’s length, as they never looked in danger of losing.
FULL-TIME: Canberra Raiders 16 Melbourne Storm 30
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jahrome Hughes (Storm), 2 pts – Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm), 1 pt – Cameron Munster (Storm)
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