The Canberra Raiders sent Melbourne packing from the 2022 premiership race with a 28-20 upset at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Ricky Stuart’s team has now beaten Melbourne five times in a row at AAMI Park and they move on to play the Eels in another sudden-death clash next weekend.
After defending their line stoutly for several sets early on, the Raiders cracked the Storm when Joseph Tapine put Jack Wighton into the back field with a delicate offload.
Wighton pinned his ears back and then ofloaded a pass which was touched by Nick Meaney before landing in the hands of Xavier Savage who sent it on to Matt Timoko, the centre taking on Cameron Munster and powering over in the right corner for a 4-0 lead.
On the back of their third six-again call in the opening 15 minutes the Storm went left and Kenny Bromwich put in a grubber which Savage was forced to knock it dead to hand the home side a fresh set.
A try worthy of the Finals
From there it was ball-players Munster and Jahrome Hughes creating space on the right for Marion Seve to put Xavier Coates away on a 20-metre run to the corner for his 14th try of the season.
Four minutes later it was Caotes doubling his tally on the back of brilliant lead-up work by Hughes, who spotted Jordan Rapana in off his wing and chipped over for his winger to touch down and the Storm led 8-4.
It took the Raiders just 10 minutes to hit back and reclaim the lead when halfback Jamal Fogarty took the first pass of a scrum 10 metres out and brushed off Meaney, Justin Olam and David Nofoaluma to score.
Fogarty fights his way over
In the 35th minute Tapine capped a magnificent first half when he put Elliott Whitehead over from close range with another deft offload and the Green Machine was in overdrive at 16-8.
Munster and Hughes combined again in the 45th minute to put Seve away down the right side, the centre passing back to Munster who found Coates to power away for his second hat-trick of the season. Munster converted to make it 16-14.
A high tackle by Tapine on Hughes in the 50th minute handed Munster a penalty shot to equal the scores but he pushed it wide.
The Storm regained the lead in the 57th minute when a rampaging Nelson Asofa-Solomona took a pass from Grant 10 metres out and proved unstoppable to make it 20-16 with Munster's conversion.
Kris uses his head to put Rapana over
With 15 minutes to play it was Wighton nudging a left foot kick into the in goal for Hudson Young to beat Munster to the ball and lock the scores up before Fogarty converted for 22-20 to Canberra.
The Raiders launched a raid down the left side with five minutes to play and Jordan Rapana made the most of a stroke of luck after a pass rebounded off Kris' head and into the in goal area. Fogarty's ice cool conversion made it 28-20 to the visitors and the upset was complete.
The Green Machine are riding a five-game winning streak and will go into their sudden-death clash against Parramatta on Friday full of confidence while the Storm are left to reflect on a season hampered by injuries to key players like Ryan Papenhuyzen, Christian Welch and Reimis Smith.
Match: Storm v Raiders
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Raiders centre Matt Timoko left the field in the 12th minute for a HIA which he passed.
- Storm winger Xavier Coates' season haul of 16 tries included hat-tricks against the the Knights in Round 8 and tonight's final as well as a career-high four in one game, against the Warriors in Round 7.
- Storm forward Kenny Bromwich left the field on the stroke of half-time for a HIA which he passed.
- Joseph Tapine played the first 51 minutes without a break and racked up 155 metres from 14 runs, three offloads and three line break assists. He finished the night with 216 metres.
- Joseph Tapine was placed on report in the 50th minute for high contact on Jahrome Hughes, who left the field for a HIA, which he passed.
Coates goes coast to coast
- Nelson Asofa-Solomona came up with a try, nine tackle breaks and 156 running metres for the Storm.
- Hudson Young's try was his 14th of the season, equal best for Canberra with Sebastian Kris.
- Cameron Munster was in everything for the Storm, running for 217 metres, breaking six tackles and having one try assist.
- Corey Horsburgh was strong off the bench for the Raiders with 14 runs for 97 metres.
- Raiders back-rower Adam Elliott lasted just 31 minutes before he succumbed to a pubic bone injury.
- The Storm have not been eliminated on the first weekend of the finals since 2014 when Canterbury beat them 28-4 at AAMI Park.
Whitehead gets in on the act
Play of the Game
With Kiwi maestro Jahrome Hughes back at the helm the Storm looked more like their old selves and the halfback had his fingerpints all over the first two tries, both scored by Xavier Coates. The second of those in the 22nd minute was a peach, Harry rant scampering out of dummy half and turning Cameron Munster inside before the No.6 found Hughes who looked up and saw Jordan Rapana way in off his wing so he put in a pinpoint chip kick for Coates to catch on the full and score.
Good luck defending this
What They Said
"You don't win finals games letting the opposition score 28 and we let a couple of soft ones in too. Ones we've defended well the last couple of weeks. They were soft as butter, that was the disappointing thing. I don't know where those tries came from. It's been a hard and long year with the injuries we've had and other things happening. I think the guys have done a good job to finish where they have but to go out on that performance, especially defensively, is disappointing." - Storm coach Craig Bellamy
Storm: Finals Week 1
"It was a tough night, Melbourne did a really good job getting out of their end and we didn't get any good ball. The way the players hung in tonight makes me so proud and we got a slick of luck with that header. We were out on our legs on a number of phases of that game both in the first and second half. You've got to be a good football team to beat Melbourne down here. There's no secret, you've just got to turn up and play well." - Raiders coach Ricky Stuart
Raiders: Finals Week 1
The season is over for the Storm while the Raiders move on to week two of the finals to face the Eels at CommBank Stadium on Friday night. That will be the first ever finals meeting between the Raiders and Eels.