The Melbourne Storm overcame a slow start tonight at GIO Stadium to heap more misery on the Canberra Raiders.
With both sides missing a host of players, the Storm overcame a 10-0 deficit to convincingly win 34-10.
The Storm’s defence was brutal all game, with the Raiders failing to establish any real go forward.
Melbourne compressed their defensive line and the weight of possession and territory eventually told.
It was the Raiders who would score first, though.
In the first set of the match, a Sam Williams bomb was kept alive by Curtis Scott.
George Williams then chipped across field for Bailey Simonsson who went in untouched.
They were in again with just fifteen minutes gone. Scott was able to brush off Justin Olam and made a long break downfield.
From the ensuing play, Sam Williams was able to thread his grubber through a staggered Melbourne defence. Elliott Whitehead was there to make it 10-0.
Both Raiders tries were scored from range and the Storm were already dominating from a territory perspective.
However, Melbourne’s attack looked out of sorts and was struggling to create opportunities.
This all started to change with just seven minutes remaining in the first half after sharp lead up work from Brandon Smith and Justin Olam.
A few tackles later, a quick play the ball gave Brandon Smith the opportunity to get Nelson Asofa-Solomona one on one with Tom Starling.
The Storm were back within four points.
The Storm were again camped on the Raiders line, Brandon Smith’s pass from dummy half was touched by a Raiders player.
He was the first to scoop the ball up and pass to Chris Lewis who was in for the easiest of tries.
In the modern game, momentum is key and it had swung firmly in the Storm’s favour.
It was to continue, with Asofa-Sololona crashing over for his second try less than ten minutes into the second half.
Melbourne’s attack was looking more assured and Nicho Hynes was beginning to make his presence felt.
After a slick move right, Hynes put Reimis Smith in space and he beat Sebastian Kris and Simonsson to score.
The Storm effectively had the game won with just under twenty minutes remaining.
Hynes went through a gap after a smart offload from Dale Finucane. Aaron Booth’s grubber had the pinball effect and Tom Eisenhuth was first there to ground it.
The game was over but the scoring wasn’t. With seven minutes remaining, Lewis got the offload away to Hynes.
He went left and held up the pass nicely for Trent Loiero who went in for his debut try in the NRL in just his second match.
The comeback was complete with the Storm running out 34-10 winners.
Much is made of the Melbourne Storm system and it was on show again tonight.
With Harry Grant, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen all missing, this was a backup Melbourne spine.
To still score six tries was indicative of just how good this system is.
The Raiders were also missing a sprinkling of stars.
They were starved of attacking opportunities by a stingy Storm defence.
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3 points: Brandon Smith got an early night, leaving the field with twenty minutes remaining.
However, his running from dummy half got the Storm back into the game in the first half.
He was then heavily involved in the Storm’s first three tries and had a large bearing on the result;
2 points: After a quiet start, Nicho Hynes got better as the game wore on.
Most of the Storm second-half attack started through him and he probably increased his price tag for 2022 by a little bit more.
1 point: Nelson Asofa-Solomona scored two tries and bent the Raiders defensive line consistently.
Starting from the bench, Asofa-Solomona helped to wrestle the game back in the Storm’s favour.