Storm march to the big dance
Storm have booked a date with the Sharks in the 2016 NRL Grand Final after winning a thrilling Preliminary final 14-12 against Canberra.
Melbourne lead narrowly for much of the contest and showed the kind of heart that typified the last 28 weeks of the season.
The purple wall was simple incredible, making 304 tackles and never taking a backwards step.
Cooper Cronk, in game number 300, proved why he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game of rugby league. The mercurial halfback scored Storm's first try of the night while steering the team around the park with his charactertic precision.
Melbourne will now march on to play in the seventh grand final in the Club's 18-year history.
When kickoff arrived the rain began to fall though it did little to dampen the electric atmosphere of a 28,161-strong AAMI Park crowd.
After controlling much of the field possession early, Storm were centimetres away from enjoying the dream start when milestone man Cooper Cronk dove for the line only to just lose possession on grounding.
The champion bounced back though, intercepting a Jarrod Crocker grubber kick moments later at the defensive end before running it 50 metres up-field.
Riding the momentum generated by their halfback, Storm soon had the first points of the night as Cameron Smith converted a penalty kick on 16 minutes.
Canberra began to find their attacking groove though and seven minutes later gained the lead with a try to Jordan Rapana.
Storm needed to lift and they did just that courtesy of a brilliant Marika Koroibete tackle to force a goaline drop out 10 minutes out from half-time.
From the next play Mr. 300-gamer would not be denied a second time, collected a pass 10m out and slicing through a hole in the defence to send the purple faithful into raptures.
Melbourne took an 8-6 lead into half-time and the arm wrestle continued after the break as both sides traded scoreless yet breathtaking sets for 20 minutes.
Then as the game approached the hour mark the crucial moment arrived.
It began with Cameron Munster gathering on a high ball 5m out from his own line before his pass to Marika Koroibete sent the Fijian flying 70 metres down field past five defenders.
Jack Wighton eventually laid the tackle but simply refused to let him go and was sent to the sin bin as a result.
That was all the opportunity Melbourne needed as they executing the perfect set play off the following set that sent Cheyse Blair through for a six-point lead.
Smith extended it by another two minutes later with a penalty to give the home side the smallest amount of breathing space.
As the Raiders returned to full strength they had the most golden of opportunities to begin the comeback but Edrick Lee dropped the ball with the try line at his mercy.
Elliott Whitehead scored with four minutes remaining to put purple hearts in mouths but this was an occassion that Storm were never going to let slip from their grasp.
Melbourne Storm 14
Tries: Cooper Cronk, Cheyse Blair
Goals: Cameron Smith 3
Canberra Raiders 12
Tries: Jordan Rapana, Elliot Whitehead
Goals: Jarrod Croker