Raiders stun Storm, move to third in NRL
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has declared Canberra the hottest team in the NRL after the Raiders turned in one of their best defensive performances of the year in a 22-8 win on Monday.
The Raiders limited the league's leaders to just one try at GIO Stadium despite giving up a remarkable 51 plays inside their own 20m zone compared to just 16 down the other end.
It was a defensive wall that prompted Bellamy to label the Raiders, who moved to third with the win, the team to beat heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.
"We all know Cronulla got beat on the weekend, we all know the Cowboys got beat, we all know now we got beat. We've plataeued a bit in the last couple of weeks," Bellamy said.
"We need to find a way to get better. At the moment, the Raiders are the team that's lifting their execution, they're all-around game.
"They're the team at the moment to be quite honest, without a doubt."
One week after handing Cronulla their first loss since March, the Raiders became just the second team in 30 years to beat the competition leaders in back-to-back games.
In front of 15,707 fans - the biggest Canberra crowd since 2012 - the home side claimed arguably their best victory of the year to announce themselves as a genuine premiership threat.
The win ramps up hopes of the club's first title since 1994, while the Storm remain in first.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was proud of his team's defensive effort.
"The defence was very pleasing. We've worked hard at it. We were consistent with it tonight and I was very pleased with them because we've been working hard at it for a long-time," he said.
The 16 plays down the Storm's end was all the Raiders needed, crossing for three tries to become the first team to score more than 20 points against the best defensive team in the competition this season. Centre Joey Leilua grabbed two first-half tries in a standout effort, while Elliot Whitehead and Josh Papalii were also prominent in the win.
Canberra stunned the visitors with a try in the first set of the match, Leilua putting Blake Austin into the backfield before backing up to score the quickest try of the season.
Storm halfback Cooper Cronk replied when he ran the ball in the 17th minute, however Leilua returned by ploughing through three defenders seven minutes later.
Jarrod Croker's penalty goal gave Canberra a six-point advantage at halftime before Shannon Boyd crashed through under the posts in the 54th minute and Croker sealed the win with a 76th minute penalty goal.
Leilua came off late in the game with what appeared to be a bad cut to his leg.
Hooker Josh Hodgson could find himself in trouble for a possible grapple tackle in the first half.