Raiders impressive in victory over Storm
The Canberra Raiders proved they are genuine premiership contenders with a powerful win over the Storm at GIO Stadium on Monday night.
It was billed as one of the games of the season and Canberra and Melbourne did not disappoint, the Raiders prevailed 22-8 after an enthralling 80 minutes and became just the second team in 30 seasons to beat the ladder leaders in consecutive weeks.
Canberra's attack and Melbourne's defence was the key match-up heading into the game, but it was the Raiders' defence that played a key part in the victory.
That's not to say their attack wasn’t a factor, as Joseph Leilua got the home side off to the perfect start, scoring the fastest try of the season in just 47 seconds.
After the big centre broke the line and passed to Blake Austin who got to the Storm's 20 metre line before slipping over, but was able to give it back to Leilua who found some space to give the Raiders the lead.
Despite Canberra's fast start the Storm were unfazed and hit back within 10 minutes, as Cooper Cronk made his way over the line.
Cronk used the smart runs of Cameron Munster and Kevin Proctor as decoys and identified Raiders prop Shannon Boyd was slow to get across, to stroll over the line and bring the visitors level.
The table toppers would take the lead soon after through a penalty goal to Cameron Smith, and the opening 20 minutes had flown by.
Both sides were completing at high percentages and the game was opening up, although the Raiders weren't able to gain position inside the Storm's 20.
The next time they did the home side were in again, and it was Leilua on hand for his 10th career double.
Leilua brushed off Cheyse Blair and bowled over Cameron Munster on his way to the line and shifted the momentum back the way of the Raiders.
Canberra were given a late penalty and Jarrod Croker added the two, and Canberra took a six-point lead into the main break after an enthralling 40 minutes.
The Green Machine continued with their impressive defensive work to start the second half, keeping the Storm out time and time again inside the first 10 minutes.
All of their defensive work was rewarded in the 54th minute, as Shannon Boyd forced his way over the line under the posts to put the Raiders out to a deserved 12-point lead.
Despite the scoreboard not being in their favour the Storm were not down and out, and with 15 minutes left Cooper Cronk put in a sneaky 40/20 to give the visitors a chance at halving the deficit.
The next two minutes were indicative of the entire 80 minutes as the Raiders' defence, highlighted by a try saving tackle to Jarrod Croker, was too much for the Storm to handle going forward.
Back-to-back sets inside the Raiders' 20 came up without points for the Storm, as Canberra swarmed on the ball carrier on every tackle, suffocating Melbourne's ability to shift the ball along the line.
The Storm fought hard but couldn’t breach Canberra's line, as Croker added a penalty goal in the dying minutes to extend Canberra's streak to seven wins on the trot.
Canberra Raiders 22 (Leilua 2, Boyd tries; Croker 5 goals) def. Melbourne Storm 8 (Cronk try; Smith 2 goals) Half time: 14-8. Crowd: 15,707.