Raiders storm into finals race
Big game in the centres ... Blake Ferguson in one of his many runs for the night. Photo: Getty Images
Storm 12 Raiders 40
CANBERRA are refusing to get caught up in talk of another dramatic surge to the finals despite thumping the top-placed Storm last night.
Over ... Sandor Earl scores one of his two tries for the night. Photo: Getty Images
Sure, Melbourne were severely weakened without the two best players in the world. But even the absence of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater couldn't take away from a rampant Raiders performance that will give their fans hope they can replicate the feats of 2010.
The Raiders led from start to finish in hammering a depleted Storm 40-12 at AAMI Park.
That win moves the Raiders to within two points of the top eight with eight games remaining.
NRL Round 18: Raiders vs Storm
Gareth Widdop of the Storm is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders. Photo: Getty Images
While Raiders captain David Shillington lauded his side's performance, he batted away any thoughts of replicating the charge to the finals in 2010.
"It's definitely our most satisfying win [of the year],'' Shillington said. ''It's a tough time coming down here to play Melbourne, they're a quality side. They're disciplined all around the ruck and the boys stuck to the game plan well.''
Two years ago, the Raiders won seven of their last eight games to rocket into the finals.
Hat-trick hero ... Edrick Lee. Photo: Getty Images
They upset the second-placed Penrith away from home, and were only knocked out with a dramatic two-point loss to Wests Tigers in the second week of the finals.
Last night's was the second win the Raiders have had in the past five days following on from Monday night's 22-18 victory against St George Illawarra. It is also the first time they have recorded back-to-back victories in more than a year.
The Raiders' chances were given a major boost when Smith was rested after a brutal State of Origin campaign. His scratching, to go with Slater's knee injury, meant halfback Cooper Cronk was the only one of the Storm's big three on the field.
But the Maroons' match-winner on Wednesday night couldn't stop a finely-tuned Raiders outfit, which has defied a lengthy injury toll of its own in the past two weeks.
Even without the likes of Josh Dugan, Terry Campese and Brett White, the Raiders are firing with the ball in hand while also holding tight defensively on their own line.
The Raiders didn't concede any points in the second half, much to the delight of coach David Furner.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy savaged his side's flimsy defence, but paid credit to the sharp Raiders attack.
''Some of our defence was downright embarrassing,'' Bellamy said. ''But they [the Raiders] were pretty relentless. They found some chinks, kept going there and kept finding more chinks.''
The Raiders' outside men were the beneficiaries of a dominant performance from a forward pack eager to restore its reputation as the best in the competition.
Canberra's two wingers crossed for five tries between them.
Edrick Lee scored a hat-trick in just his sixth first-grade game while mid-season signing Sandor Earl continued his strong form since joining from the Panthers with a double.
RAIDERS 40 (E Lee 3 S Earl 2 J Croker B Ferguson R Robinson tries J Croker 4 goals) bt MELBOURNE 12 (J O’Neill 2 tries G Widdop 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 12,214.