Raiders forward Corey Harawira-Naera was sensationally sent from the field in the final minutes for a high shot on Storm half Jahrome Hughes in Melbourne’s thrilling 26-16 win over a brave Canberra.
“That’s one of the worst we’ve seen,” said Fox League’s Cooper Cronk of the hit.
“I know he’s trying to change momentum for his team but he’s clearly got that wrong.
“He’s going to spend a long, long time on the sidelines.”
A record that has stood for 46 years is now in striking distance for the Storm after their 18th win in a row against a defiant Raiders on the Sunshine Coast.
Courtesy of the win, the Storm can equal the great 1975 Roosters outfit’s all-time record of 19 consecutive wins if they can beat the Titans next week.
The Storm led 20-4 at halftime but the Raiders came storming home thanks to inspirational five-eighth Jack Wighton, who set up three tries for Bailey Simonsson. They got the margin back to a six point deficit before Harawira-Naera caught Hughes high and Ryan Papenhuyzen landed the match sealing penalty.
Champion Storm playmaker five-eighth Cameron Munster poked, probed and prodded on his merry way in the first half.
Premiership winner Matthew Johns noted this week how the Storm’s form had slipped in recent weeks and that was certainly in evidence against Canberra with little intensity in their play. An almighty spray from coach Craig Bellamy would surely have been waiting for them in the sheds. Melbourne rarely got out of second gear in the first half and didn’t need to, but that all changed in the second.
The Storm lost inspirational lock forward Dale Finucane in the second minute to concussion, and he was sorely missed.
The Roosters won 19 straight in the 1975 season and then lost the major semi to the Dragons before towelling up St George 38-0 in the decider.
The Storm win took them beyond the previous second longest streak of 17 wins in a row held by the 2020 Panthers and 2002 Bulldogs. Neither of those teams won titles in those years, which is the only prize coach Craig Bellamy has his sights on.
Melbourne needs a second wind in the race to go back-to-back and have plenty to work on, including their leaky right edge defence.
Canberra five-eighth Wighton was superb, which will give the Raiders fans hope of a late run at the semis. In the spotlight for a lacklustre year, Wighton threw two pinpoint cutout passes to send Simonsson over and catch out the wonky Storm right side defence that Manly exposed the previous week.
When Storm winger Dean Ieremia let a Sam Williams bomb bounce, Wighton pounced to send Simonsson over in the corner for his hat-trick and cut the Storm lead to 20-16. Wighton was on the ball and in everything to show what a class act he is.
The Raiders remain, with the Knights and Titans, on 20 points and just inside the eight for now, but most likely will need to win two of their remaining three games to have a shot at playing finals footy.
Josh Hodgson said before the Storm clash that his side needed to be at its best to beat the best, and the Raiders were in the second half but not in the first. With champion fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s return from a neck injury imminent, the Raiders need to find their best in the run home against the Sea Eagles, Warriors and Roosters.Internet Explorer Channel Network