A shell-shocked Melbourne Storm have been surprised at home by a resilient Canberra Raiders who have begun to establish themselves as a bogey team, winning their fourth consecutive game in Melbourne 20-16.
Melbourne, perennially a team struggling to deal with the State of Origin period, were desperate to win this game, having lost their last two games against the Sharks and Manly.
Canberra meanwhile, have been languishing on the unfortunate end of the ladder for much of the 2022 season, perhaps in part due to the unfortunate injury to their big recruit halfback in Jamal Fogarty.
While certainly unexpected, there is no doubt the Raiders would have been dreaming of a victory down in Melbourne.
In the last few years, and particularly since 2019, the Raiders v Storm stoush has become a growing rivalry to watch.
Melbourne established themselves early, making easy field position. On Old Boys Day, the men south of the border started vigorously and energetically.
Cameron Munster ran on to the field, as the commentator aptly put it “like he was backing up for second Christmas”.
The return of stars such as Munster and Harry Grant were welcomed gratefully by teammates and fans alike. Both looked ready to perform.
Bulldogs import Nick Meaney bagged the first try after Felise Kaufusi snuck an offload following a strong run towards the line.
Meaney, who has filled in all over for the Storm this season, would be loving life in the purple jersey (today’s game notwithstanding).
Ryan Papenhuyzen, who has been struggling to return to form after a succession of injuries, continued his average run with some daft passes really, that hamstrung Melbourne’s attack.
One such intervention would result in Sebastian Kris streaking away with an intercept for Canberra’s first try in the 9th minute.
Papenhuyzen would continue his unfortunate run (nonetheless a brilliant player) before leaving the field with a suspected broken kneecap in the 20th minute.
Canberra would score again through fill-in James Schiller, taking the role of the late withdrawal Nick Cotric.
A penalty goal would add to the lead and, heading in to the half, unbelievably perhaps, the agreed second-best team in the League were trailing to the bottom eight Raiders.
Melbourne Storm, undoubtedly after copping an all-time Bellamy halftime motivational speech, would score through two of their stars in Hughes and Grant to take the lead for the first time since the ninth minute.
Munster was also a key figure in Melbourne’s resurgence, single-handedly willing his team forward with his trademark steals, runs and improvisation.
Melbourne remained resolute for much of the game, with some stalwart defence including one of the tackles of the season.
With James Schiller streaming towards the line, fan-favourite Justin Olam sent the young winger into the stratosphere with the sideline bump of the century.
Schiller would have the last laugh however, scoring the winning try in the 66th minute through a piece of sheer individual brilliance.
Approaching the tryline, but being shepherded towards the sideline, Schiller – unable to decide whether to pass or run – dribbled the ball past his opposing winger, the ball sitting up at the last second for an inch-perfect try.
Melbourne would again be denied from Raiders defence and video referee intervention, unable to claw back the lead in the remaining 16 minutes.
Even with a 10 minute sit down for star Jordan Rapana in the second half, Canberra somehow managed to hold on for another famous victory in Melbourne, as the Storm sunk to three losses in a row for the first time in seven years.
Canberra Raiders (Kris, Schiller 2) def Melbourne Storm 16 (Meaney, Hughes, Grant)
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Joseph Tapine (CBR)
2 Points – James Schiller (CBR)
1 Point – Cameron Munster (MEL)