The Canberra Raiders led the Storm for 70 minutes of the match tonight in the ACT, but didn’t have the experience or the class to close the game out – as last years premiers the Melbourne Storm proved too good.
With a stack of possession and some error free football, the Raiders looked extremely impressive for 3/4 of the match. The Raiders running in several early tries and looking as confident as ever in their home patch.
The Raiders were again helped by a classy performance from Todd Carney, the elusive half finding gaps and kicking astutely most of the time and assisted well by big outside back Colin Best.
When Canberra came out and started the second half confidently, they still looked like winners – but a 50/50 call by video referee Bill Harrigan against the Raiders cost Colin Best another try and with it, any chance of the Raiders keeping their lead safe. Once again, there was no evidence for this to be called a ‘no-try’ the video still frames not minute enough to rule either way – which is a classic case of ‘benefit of the doubt’. For some reason, we never seem to see the benefit of the doubt rule used – we may as well scrap it.
As the wobbles set in for the home side, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk lifted into another gear. Cronk kicking a match turning 40/20 kick and Billy Slater turning on the after burners to break the line at will and score an explosive try to break the hearts of Raiders fans.
The Storm still look a yard off last years pace, in particular Cameron Smith not having his best game. The Australian hooker seemed to be blowing at times and tended to complain more to the referee for penalties, rather than focus on the game. Any spark lacking from Smith was quickly replaced by the skill and speed of Slater – the pacey custodian asured of an Australian fullback jersey.
For Canberra, coach Neil Henry would still be pleased with the defensive efforts. Scrambling well and battling valliantly at the ruck, the Raiders were certainly well and truly in the game. At times the Storm did tend to get a fast, uptempo roll on that hurt them – but for the majority of the game, the Raiders were doing the little things right.
There were times where the referee’s calls really did hurt the Raiders, in particular – the held call on Dane Tilse really broke the back of Canberra. This was a harsh call on the locals and the Storm took the gift with both hands and made them pay. The other heavy price paid by the Raiders was when half Todd Carney failed to find touch from a penalty – at a time when possession was at a premium.
Regardless, full credit to the Storm. They aren’t quite in their best form, but are doing enough to win the tough games. This kind of tight contest helps put them in good stead for the long season ahead and tough match-ups throughout. Greg Inglis was an improver, but still looks a little lost centre field – but the Storm forwards again put their hand up and rolled over the ad-line when they finally got some ball.