Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm
Canberra Raiders player Paul Vaughan crosses the line for the match-winning try. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
CANBERRA RAIDERS 24 (Reece Robinson 2, Matt Allwood, Paul Vaughan tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals)
MELBOURNE STORM 22 (Mahe Fonua 2, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sisa Waqa tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals)
at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Dave Munro. Crowd: 10,941
WIGHTON BACK TO BACKFLIPPING BEST
Josh Papalii is regularly labelled a ‘'backflipper’' for opting out of a deal with Parramatta, but it was his teammate Jack Wighton who unleashed his acrobatic skills at full-time. The five-eighth unleashed a couple of impressive back-flips after full-time, before heading to Raiders fans in the crowd to start the celebrations. The Raiders would be happy a trampoline wasn’t involved in his display. Wighton suffered a season-ending foot injury after a trampoline mishap in his debut 2012 season.
ALLWOOD WAS ALL GOOD
Rookie Raiders centre Matt Allwood has developed a reputation as a strong defender in the first few NRL games of his career this season. But against Melbourne he unleashed some of his attacking weaponry, scoring his first try in the first half. Allwood also threw the last pass for one of winger Reece Robinson’s two tries, and ran for 138 metres. He benefited hugely from plenty of early ball from Raiders skipper Terry Campese, and gave opposite number Justin O’Neill plenty of headaches. The Raiders' dominant right edge seem to fancy their chances against O’Neill. Sacked centre Blake Ferguson tore Storm apart when opposing O'Neill in a win at AAMI Park last year. Campese revealed after the game they had planned to attack Melbourne’s left edge, but Allwood’s dominance forced them into a re-think which paid huge dividends.
CROKER FOR COUNTRY
He hates talking publicly about it, but Raiders centre Jarrod Croker would love nothing more than to make his representative debut for Country this season. Croker has been outstanding this season, scoring five tries. However it was his run down of Storm star Billy Slater in the first half which should make selectors sit up and take notice. Melbourne were leading 16-6, and Croker’s desperation forced a Slater mistake when he looked certain to extend the lead to 16 points. Asked if Croker deserves a breakthrough representative jersey, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said: “We’ve had some great individual performances, but ‘Toots’ has been in every game. I’ve told selectors I wouldn’t be going around tell them what to do, but if I ever ring I’ll always give them my opinion on who I think would do the right thing by that representative jumper. He’s been fabulous for us and he’s such a great goal kicker too, it always helps.’’
ALAN TONGUE BACK IN GREEN?
Canberra Raiders back-rower Joel Edwards returned after a week off through concussion wearing headgear, and some fans could have been forgiven for thinking Alan Tongue had made a comeback. The fellow redhead was known for this trademark headgear during his career, but Edwards threw the protection away after just 10 minutes.
THANKS TO THE FANS
The 10,941 fans who turned up was the first five-figure crowd Canberra has enjoyed in three home games. They were very vocal late as Canberra surged home with a wet sail, and the players made a point of giving them plenty of credit for the win. “The crowd was unbelievable, they were the loudest I’ve heard them for a while and they played a big role in getting us over the line,’’ Campese said.