Canberra thump Melbourne in NRL trial

By John Salvado,

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    The Melbourne Storm are set to pay a heavy price from Friday’s 40-8 NRL trial loss to Canberra, with Kevin Proctor, Matt Duffie and Maurice Blair all picking up injuries which will probably rule them out of the upcoming World Club Challenge against Leeds.

    Proctor will definitely miss the February 22 game after damaging the medial ligament in his left knee, while winger Duffie (right hamstring) and utility back Blair (cheekbone) will anxiously await the results of scans on Saturday.

    It capped off a very disappointing night at Simonds Stadium for the Storm, who were thumped by a Raiders team missing six big names on All-Stars duty.

    “Kevin Proctor’s is a bad one, Bobby Blair with his eye socket or cheekbone (is in a) bit of trouble and Matt Duffie with his hamstring,” said Storm assistant coach Kevin Walters.

    “All those three would have expected to have been on the plane, but now they’re not.

    “They’re injured, so we have to try to come up with some others.”

    The Storm will name their WCC squad on Saturday, two days before flying to England.

    Melbourne were without captain Cameron Smith and Justin O’Neill – both on duty for Saturday’s All-Stars game in Brisbane – while halfback Cooper Cronk was injured.

    But despite pulling out of the NRL All-Stars squad last month with an ankle injury, Billy Slater made cameos early in each half on Friday for Melbourne before being replaced at fullback by youngster Ben Hampton.

    “I know we had some guys missing, but to put in a performance like that was very disappointing,” said Walters.

    “Particularly defensively, one of the strong trademarks of the Storm and today it was non-existent.

    “I think most of it was down to attitude.”

    The only downside from Friday’s game for the impressive Raiders was a medial ligament strain to centre Jarrod Croker, last year’s leading NRL points-scorer.

    “We don’t know the extent of the strain, whether it’s a grade one or a grade two,” said Canberra coach David Furner.

    “I think he should be right for the start of the season from what I’ve been told.”

    The Raiders were never going to be headed after scoring the first five tries of the game.

    French international Dimitri Pelo scored a first-half double for the Raiders, while their other winger, Sandor Earl, also crossed twice.

    Canberra’s other try-scorers were Josh Dugan, Josh Papalii, Haydon Hodge and Edrick Lee.

    “It is a trial and as a coach you’re just pleased that the areas you’ve been working on during the pre-season, that you are able to implement them during games,” said Furner.

    “Having back-to-back sets, obviously you’ve got to use them, but it does take a fair bit of juice out of the opposition.

    “In that first half we had five or six sets in a row that we were able to score points off.”

    The Raiders have the biggest contingent of any NRL club on All-Stars duty, with Jake Foster, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Joel Thompson, Reece Robinson and David Shillington all set to play in Saturday night’s game in Brisbane.

    Melbourne’s only tries were scored by Duffie and local Victorian product Richard Kennar.

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