Storm into top eight with Raiders win
The Melbourne Storm have propelled themselves back into the top eight after dispatching Canberra 28-14 at AAMI Park.
In what was the Storm's first home win over the Raiders in four games, the hosts weathered a first-half fight from the Green Machine to claim the points in front of 11,479 fans.
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WATCH: Storm v Raiders highlights
WATCH: Storm post-match press conference
WATCH: Raiders post-match press conference
It was another strong performance by in-form centre Mahe Fonua (2 tries, 132 metres) while a new-look, all-Fijian wing pairing of Sisa Waqa and Marika Koroibete looks to have some potential with both players combining for 324 metres and a try apiece.
It was a different looking home team who were sporting red socks, raising awareness for the AIDS conference currently taking place in Melbourne.
The Storm were granted a dose of early fortune as it opened the scoring four minutes in.
A deflected Cronk kick was recovered by Storm veteran Bryan Norrie and a wayward pass further upfield looked to have killed the sloppy attacking foray.
But the Raiders defence was unable to recover the loose ball, with Kevin Proctor blitzing through what was left of the visitors' line to bulldoze over.
Cameron Smith, wearing No.16 in support of Alex McKinnon, fluffed his kick though as he side took an early 4-0 lead.
Proctor's try was a cruel moment for Canberra fans who less than two months ago thought their club had secured the Kiwi's signature beyond this season.
It was a dream start for the hosts continued as they had their second three minutes later.
A string of passes from the left wing again left the Raiders defence nowhere to be found as Jordan McLean capped off the move to justify his late switch from the bench at the expense of Ryan Hinchcliffe.
It was a nightmare start for the visitors who missed eight tackles in the opening 15 minutes as Melbourne enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and 100 more metres.
But in the 17th minute the game took an unlikely turn in momentum.
A wayward Billy Slater pass into the hands of Reece Robinson and a penalty to follow saw the Raiders enjoying their first notable field position of the game – and they made it count.
A zipping Terry Campese pass to the right gave Sami Sauiluma acres of space and the winger didn't let his captain down to bring the margin back to six.
But as has been the case in 2014, the Raiders proved the masters of their own undoing a minute later as Anthony Milford knocked on the ensuing kick off.
It would prove to be a costly error.
Mahe Fonua was shifted to the centres prior to kickoff and the move proved a masterstroke as his clever off load to Marika Koroibete set the Fijian up for his first try in purple colours.
Despite a strong start to the game it was far from a perfect opening 40 minutes from the home side with three errors and an unfavorable 5-1 penalty count.
The Raiders were in need of a spark and it came via a likely source in Anthony Milford on 31 minutes.
The Brisbane-bound fullback blew past Ben Roberts 15 metres from the line like he was standing still for his third try in two weeks.
A 14-10 halftime score line had the visitors headed for the sheds with every chance of making it four straight wins in Melbourne.
Canberra emerged from the sheds looking to push the ascendancy in the first 10 minutes.
Repeat sets had the hosts on the back foot but it would be a dropped ball by Campese that would prove the turning point.
Provider in the first half Fonua would turn producer in the second.
On 53 minutes the 21-year-old Victorian cut inside from a pass from his captain to break the Raiders line and ground the ball despite the flailing effort by Milford to tackle.
Fonua had the opportunity to fill his coffers two more times but a knock on with a clear path to the line and a botched pass when it looked as though he could score himself saw both chances go begging.
Milford and Sauliuma obliged with two drop balls of their own to all but relinquish any chance of the Green Machine resurgence.
In the 64th minute winger Waqa would provide some much needed polish to a scrappy five minute period, going on a barnstorming run down the touch line for his 11th try of the season.
Fonua again chimed in with his second of the game, this time the beneficiary of a powerful Koroibete run to make it a 28-10 score line and place the result beyond doubt.
Cronk has a late pass intercepted by Croker who at least finished off a disappointing night with a long-range try but it was Robinson's fumble in the final minute as the try-line beckoned that summed up the Raiders night.
The Storm take on the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium next Friday night while the Raiders will host the Rabbitohs on Monday night football.
Melbourne Storm 28 (Fonua 2, Proctor, McLean, Koroibete, Waqa tries; Smith 2 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 14 (Sauiluma, Milford, Croker tries; Croker 1 goal) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 11,479