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Round 22 gets underway tonight when the Melbourne Storm take on the Canberra Raiders at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 7:50pm (AEST).
The race for the bottom two spots in the 8 has become a traffic jam, and the Canberra Raiders are just holding on. A win here would give them some much-needed breathing space, but that’s easier said than done. Beating Melbourne at their home away from home is almost impossible.
The Storm got a fright against the Sea Eagles last round, but were still able to stamp their class when it mattered. Make no mistake, Manly will be there deep into the upcoming finals series, so the win over another potential top-four team was solid enough.
Craig Bellamy has done a great job with this side again, morphing them into one of the best attacking line-ups in the NRL. Of course, that job becomes a bit easier when you have Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Nicho Hynes and Harry Grant in your line-up.
In bad news for the Raiders, the Storm are set to get even stronger this round. Felise Kaufusi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona are both named to return, with Tom Eisenhuth and Tepai Moeroa both missing out on the 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen is again named on the bench and is likely to overcome his knee knock last weekend.
The Canberra Raiders have shown signs of improvement recently, winning three on the trot, with their best being a win over the Eels a fortnight ago. They do face a jump in class here though.
Their last start win over the Dragons was gritty rather than pretty to watch. The forwards got on top of their Dragon counterparts whilst Sam Williams had one of his better games in the number 7 jersey. They will need more from Jack Wighton and Josh Hodgson tonight.
Bailey Simonsson returns to the side after five weeks on the sidelines, while Semi Valemei drops out. Iosia Soliola comes back via the interchange, with Elijah Anderson missing out on the squad.
The Raiders will no doubt be desperate tonight but desperation won’t be enough.
Melbourne are simply playing at a different level to most teams and have too many weapons for Canberra.
I expect it to be tight early before the Storm pull away.
Melbourne Storm by 20.
1. Nicholas Hynes 2. Dean Ieremia 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich (c) 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane (c)
Bench/Reserves 14. Harry Grant 15. Chris Lewis 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen | 19. Tepai Moeroa 20. Isaac Lumelume
1. Jordan Rapana 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Harley Smith-Shields 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton
Bench/Reserves: 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. Iosia Soliola | 18. Sebastian Kris, 20. Dunamis Lui