Canberra oust Melbourne from NRL finals

·3-min read

Fearless Canberra have ended Melbourne's NRL season in stunning fashion, posting a 28-20 victory in their elimination final to continue their dominance at AAMI Park.

The Raiders repelled a second-half Storm fightback to oust the perennial finals heavyweights and march on to a semi-final showdown against Parramatta at CommBank Stadium next week.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said the performance, which secured his team's fifth successive win in Melbourne, had made him proud.

He said they would embrace the underdog tag against the Eels.

"The way the players hung in tonight makes me so proud as their coach," Stuart said.

"The way they defended was a credit to themselves.

"Going into next week's game no-one expects us to win so it's easy for us - no-one expects us to beat Parramatta at Bankwest so we will have a fun week at training and do our best and see how it goes."

Melbourne trailed 16-8 at halftime and looked down and out, but winger Xavier Coates bagged his third try of the night and giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona crashed over in the 56th minute to put the home side ahead 20-16.

But the gutsy Raiders refused to go away.

Canberra second-rower Hudson Young pounced on a Jack Wighton grubberkick which wrong-footed Cameron Munster in the 65th minute, with Jamal Fogarty adding the extras for the visitors to regain the lead 22-20.

And an opportunist try by winger Jordan Rapana, when the ball bounced off the head of Sebastian Kris, secured the upset win for the eight-placed Raiders over fifth-placed Melbourne.

It was the Storm's earliest exit since 2014.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said their inconsistent display was a reflection of their whole season.

"We let too many points in - you don't win a finals game letting the opposition score 28 points and they scored a couple of soft ones too, as soft as butter, and that was the disappointing thing," Bellamy said.

"It has been a hard year, a long year with the injuries we've had and few other things happening and I thought the guys did a good job to finish where we finished but to go out on that performance, especially defensively was disappointing."

Stuart's tactics targeted Nick Meaney, who was defending at five-eighth for the Storm, with the Raiders' big men, led by Joe Tapine and Josh Papalii, doing plenty of damage.

Tapine was placed on report for a second-half tackle that saw Jahrome Hughes go for a head injury assessment but Stuart was adamant he wouldn't have a case to answer.

The Raiders were starved of territory in the opening stanza but made almost every visit into Melbourne's half count.

After weathering some early Storm pressure, the Raiders flung the ball wide and young centre Matt Timoko showed his pace and power, palming off Munster to touch down in the seventh minute.

Two tries to Coates put his side ahead 8-4 but the Raiders crossed twice in the final nine minutes of the half to take an eight-point lead into the break.

Fogarty and Elliott Whitehead both punched through the flimsy Storm defence.

Coates planted the ball across the line for his third try four minutes into the second half after a break by Marion Seve for the Storm to only trail by two points.

And Asofa-Solomona's effort put his side up but it was short-lived with the green machine finishing with a flourish to send the Storm packing.