Storm lose heart breaker
Melbourne Storm has been defeated 22-24 in a tight and tense contest against the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
In a game of numerous momentum swings, Melbourne weren't able to hold out a fast finishing Raiders outfit who hit the lead for the first time of the afternoon in the 79th minute of play.
After defending stoutly for the majority of the match, Storm succumbed to the powerful Raiders forward pack late in the piece as Craig Bellamy's side recorded their third loss of the NRL season.
Jesse Bromwich and Billy Slater were among Melbourne's best providing their side with plenty of go forward throughout the encounter, while halfback Cooper Cronk was lively in attack as always. Storm's attacking options were dealt a blow during the first half of play with five-eighth Ben Roberts forced to leave the field with a knee injury. The playmaker would not return for the remainder of the match.
Melbourne absorbed a sustained period of pressure to begin opening five minutes of the clash, escaping thanks to an early kick from skipper Cameron Smith.
After a scrambled breakaway, leading to a repeat set, Storm made the most of their first real attacking set of the afternoon. Another clever kick from Smith, this time a grubber, lead to his side's first points of the day. Ryan Hinchcliffe found himself in the right place at the right time when the ball fortuitously rebounded off the upright.
Looking to consolidate their lead, Melbourne continued to push the Raiders back towards their own defensive line before the home side responded. Levelling the scores, Ricky Stuart's men carried the ball the length of the field, stretching the Storm defence out wide through Matthew Allwood.
Storm's kicking game continued to create opportunities for the visitors and allowed them to re-take the lead in the 21st minute. A piece of creativity from Cooper Cronk allowed the halfback to kick in behind the Raiders defence, opening up a try scoring opportunity for winger Sisa Waqa.
A sloppy period of play followed Storm's second try with both sides trading errors midway through the half. Pushing the Raiders line, Melbourne put together a much needed piece of quality with Cronk, Proctor and Slater crisply combining to release late inclusion Mahe Fonua.
A late surge from Canberra to finish the half allowed Reece Robinson to close Storm's half-time lead, leaving the game in the balance at the break.
Melbourne began the second stanza strongly, earning a goal line drop out and consequently scoring to re open up a 10 point lead. Cooper Cronk was again instrumental, orchestrating a short sided play allowing Mahe Fonua to score his second of the afternoon.
Keeping the game alive, Canberra refused to go away again finding some joy down the right edge after thwarting several Melbourne attacks. Robinson's second of the afternoon brought the Raiders back to within four points.
Finding a new lease of life, the home crowd livened as their side swung the momentum of the contest causing Melbourne to work overtime in defence right on their own try line.
Steadfast in holding out the Raiders, Melbourne looked to have sealed victory with 10 minutes remaining through Waqa before a no try ruling from the video referee said the winger had been forced into touch.
As had been the pattern for the majority of the afternoon, the Raiders rode a wave of support from their home faithful, asking Melbourne plenty of questions in defence. Paul Vaughan's match winner, off the back of an Anthony Milford breakaway delivered Canberra the two points and Storm a heartbreaking loss with only one minute left on the clock.
Melbourne Storm 22
Tries: Ryan Hinchcliffe 9m, Sisa Waqa 21m, Mahe Fonua 32m, Mahe Fonua 44m
Goals: Cameron Smith 3
Canberra Raiders 24
Tries: Matthew Allwood 15m, Reece Robinson 39m, Reece Robinson 56m, Paul Vaughan 79m
Goals: Jarrod Croker 4