Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders: Five things we learned
The Melbourne Storm have flexed their premiership muscle with a 44-10 thrashing over a highly disappointing Canberra Raiders outfit at AAMI Park.
The Storm were clinical and classy in attack throughout the game, making the Raiders pay dearly for their shaky ball control and poor discipline on the night.
A Felise Kaufusi try on 6 minutes was followed by a strong Cameron Munster try from 20 metres out on 15 minutes. Despite conceding a soft try to Iosia Soliola from close range the Storm had the game well under control by halftime with quality finishes from outside men Suliasi Vunivalu and Curtis Scott late in the first half.
Winger Josh Addo-Carr pounced on a Billy Slater grubber 3 minutes into the second stanza and it was clear there was to be no comeback by Ricky Stuart’s men.
Prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona was set up by Dale Finucane for a try in the 60th minute and soon after came arguably the best try of the night, as five-eighth Cameron Munster kicked in behind the defence, Addo-Carr collected the ball on the bounce and set up Curtis Scott for a superb four-pointer.
Here are five things we learned from this game.
1. Storm Army firing shots
It seems strange to say about a team that has just won its 8th game in a row but the Melbourne Storm still have a lot of improvement in them.
Captain Cameron Smith told reporters during the week that they hadn’t really ‘fired a shot’ in 2018, despite continually winning through the Origin period and moving to the top of the ladder.
Coach Craig Bellamy will be much happier with their discipline and ball control tonight and also with how they made the Raiders pay for their errors by putting on a big score.
Despite the loss of Cooper Cronk to the Sydney Roosters in the offseason, the Storm still have exceptional attacking potency as well as composure and structure to their game with the work of veterans Cameron Smith and Billy Slater complemented by their young halves, Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes.
2. Rookie Jahrome Hughes an outstanding talent
Jahrome Hughes holds the Storm number 7 jersey at the moment despite strong competition from Brodie Croft and he has every chance of keeping the jumper after another impressive display.
While Cameron Munster had a brilliant game, showing great footwork to score a try and also coming up with some big defence, notably with a hit on Raiders winger Nick Cotric in the 2nd half, Hughes really complemented him and the team as a whole with a strong passing and kicking game.
Hughes starred with a long cut out ball setting up a try for Vunivalu in the 31st minute and he kept the pressure on with a smart kicking game.
3. Raiders their own worst enemy again
Canberra gave themselves no chance of an upset at AAMI Park, losing the penalty count 14-4 and making 14 errors to the Storm’s 10.
Unlike in other matches in which the Raiders have lost by losing their way late in the game, they were never in this one. Poor discipline in the play ball and forced passes at the wrong time handed the initiative to the reigning premiers who made them pay in both halves.
While the Raiders were entitled to be unhappy with the referees in their controversial 28-24 loss to Cronulla in Round 19, they could have no such complaints in Melbourne.
4. Joey Leilua’s erratic display sums up Canberra’s season
Raiders centre Joey Leilua’s performance must have been so frustrating for coach Ricky Stuart to watch again.
The 104-kilogram powerhouse looked menacing at stages but poor decision making under pressure meant he did a lot more harm than good for his team.
Leilua threw two wayward flick passes over the sideline and also gave away penalties to give the Storm easy passage up the field. He did, however, show good footwork and strength to score the Raiders only second-half try.
A lack of composure at key stages in games has let the Raiders down throughout the season and it’s why they look certain to miss the finals for the second straight year.
5. The Storm are a genuine chance of going back to back
You could almost say that Craig Bellamy’s outfit has gone under the radar in 2018, with teams like South Sydney, St George Illawarra Dragons and more recently The Sydney Roosters having their title chances talked up.
However, Melbourne have won 8 matches in a row and have the perfect blend of youth and experience to go deep into the finals again.
They have slick outside backs, classy halves, great forward depth and a future immortal at hooker.
They may not be too well liked by opposition fans who are frustrated watching their ability to slow the play ball down but they continue to relish the challenge of confounding their critics.
They face a big test in Round 21 next week when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium and again in Round 22 when they play their bitter rivals the Cronulla Sharks.
If they can keep the roll going with strong performances in those games, then they will be clear favourites to be the first team to go back to back since the Brisbane Broncos of 1992 and 1993.
What did you learn from Melbourne’s crushing win over Canberra? Let us know in the comments below.