Prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona was the unlikely hero in a reshuffled Melbourne Storm side scoring a double on the way to a 34-10 win over the Raiders at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.
Melbourne were without their entire attacking spine – Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant – while the Raiders also had personnel problems with Jack Wighton, Josh Hodgson, Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii missing.
Even without their guns it was Canberra starting strongly in front of 14,120 fans at GIO Stadium, making the most of scoring chances when they presented themselves with tries to Bailey Simonsson and Elliott Whitehead.
However, they would be the last points the Raiders would score for the night as the Storm ran in six unanswered tries to continue the second-half woes that have plagued Canberra's season.
Nicho Hynes was outstanding at fullback with coach Craig Bellamy emphasising again the value to the club of the off-contract 24-year-old.
"His involvement has been the really impressive thing for me, he’s been involved everywhere so we’re really keen to keep him and hopefully we can," Bellamy said.
Match: Raiders v Storm
Round 11 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
"But he’s playing some really good footy at the moment and we’d like him to stay and hopefully he will take that into consideration.
"He’s fit in really well with us and he’s definitely in our 17 and he can fill a whole heap of spaces so we'd love to hang onto him."
Chris Lewis, Tom Eisenhuth and Aaron Booth also earned praise from Bellamy for giving the best version of themselves in a patched-up Storm outfit.
"We lost a few players from last week and before our last training session we lost Kenny (Bromwich) and Jahrome (Hughes) so they were big outs as well," he said.
"We try not to think about who we haven’t got we just concentrate on who we have got. Our mentality has always been if somebody misses out somebody else gets a chance and I thought all of those guys did a good job tonight."
The Raiders got a perfect start with a last-tackle kick was regathered by the home side, before the ball shifted to the left and an inch perfect kick from George Williams found Simonsson who scored after just 80 seconds.
Canberra doubled its lead when, off the back of a Curtis Scott line break, a Sam Williams kick bounced up into the arms of Whitehead to make it 10-0 after 13 minutes.
Hynes looked to have scored the first for the Storm only to have the try turned down due to obstruction from Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
However, the big prop made amends when he barged his way over close to the posts making it 10-6.
Hynes releases Smith as Storm turn the screws
Corey Horsburgh was placed on report for high contact on Asofa-Solomona in the shadows of half-time and Melbourne grabbed the lead right on the break (12-10), after Chris Lewis walked through flimsy Raiders defence.
Lewis started the second half by being placed in report for an arm around the neck of George Williams in a tackle as the Raiders went on the attack.
Simonsson accidently carried the ball over in the in-goal placing more pressure on his side only to see Asofa-Solomona crash over his second to make it 16-10 after 48 minutes.
Simonsson gives Raiders perfect start
Four minutes later the Storm were in again when centre Reimis Smith capitalised on a numbers advantage out wide to continue his outstanding form since joining the club from the Bulldogs.
Eisenhuth iced the victory when he showed more desperation than the Raiders to dive on a loose ball in the in-goal to stretch the lead to 20.
Capping a sensational win for the Storm, Trent Loiero grabbed his maiden NRL try in the 74th minute as Melbourne moved to 9-2 on the season.