Canberra coach Ricky Stuart cut an unhappy figure post-match, despite just witnessing his team beat and eliminate Melbourne on their own turf and move into the second week of finals.
“It was a tough night. There were some calls there that were tough calls. We didn’t get any 50/50s and you need them,” Stuart said.
In an absorbing contest, which saw both teams establish leads before their opponent reeled them in, it was Canberra who proved too strong for the Storm.
They started the match on the backfoot though, as the home side enjoyed a mountain of possession much to Stuart’s chagrin.
“We were out on our legs for a couple of phases of that game,” he said.
“They got a lot of set restarts in that first 20 minutes.
“They had a lot of football, but the way we defended is a credit to themselves. Their response to that first seven-minute period was a big part of the win.”
The Raiders soaked up all the Storm could throw at them, then countered to score the first points of the game.
Joe Tapine – who was outstanding throughout – found a late offload for Jack Wighton who burst into the backfield. The ball eventually getting to Matt Timoko who scored in the corner after brushing off Cameron Munster.
The try-scorer went off for a HIA shortly afterwards, which puzzled Stuart as to why they weren’t awarded a penalty due to the high contact.
“I had Matty Timoko go off for a HIA- it must have been…I don’t know, I don’t want to be negative,” Stuart said.
“He went off for a HIA, so something hit him.”
The sheer weight of possession and territory was killing the Raiders, yet they stuck strong in defence.
Jamal Fogarty then put Canberra back in front against the run of play when he fought his way over from close-range.
It marked a turning point, with Stuart’s men suddenly enjoying their own spell of possession.
Tapine was again pivotal as his short-ball to Elliot Whitehead sent the skipper over the line after Nick Meaney had been isolated in defence.
Sloppy goal-line defence would have bothered Craig Bellamy, with the Raiders scoring three tries despite having very little ball in good field position.
“Melbourne did a really good job getting out of their end of the footy field and we just didn’t get any good ball,” Stuart said.
The Raiders led 16-8 at the break, but found themselves trailing early in the second stanza, as the Storm built momentum.
Although, the Green Machine refused to go away and responded when Hudson Young continued his try-scoring streak by beating Munster to a loose ball.
Jordan Rapana then scored the match-sealing four-pointer through bizarre circumstances. The Kiwi international collected the ball from a ricochet after it had bounced off Sebastian Kris’ head.
“It was probably the only thing that went our way tonight,” Stuart bemoaned.
“We got a little bit of luck off that and it got us out in front.”
The Raiders will now face the Parramatta Eels next week, as they attempt to prolong their run into September.
“Going into next week’s game, no one expects us to win,” Stuart said, as he engaged in mind games with his opposition.
“It’s easy for us, no one expects us to win and beat Parramatta at Bankwest.
“So, we’ll have a fun week at training and do our best with our prep and see how it goes.”
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