Raiders praised despite NRL loss to Storm

Melbourne won, but Canberra coach Ricky Stuart believes his NRL side were better.

The Raiders were up 10-2 mid-way through Sunday’s clash in pouring rain at GIO Stadium, but let through two quick tries early in the second half to go down 14-10.

It marked three losses from three matches at home in 2015 – a new record for the venue.

But Stuart said it was probably the team’s best performance so far this season, especially in defence.

“We were fabulous today,” Stuart said.

“We were the best team on the field. That’s no disrespect to (Storm coach) Craig Bellamy and his team – they’ve been doing that for a long time.

“While ever we’re performing like that, training and working the way we are, we will continue to grow.

“I’m disappointed about the result … and that breaks my heart, because I know how much it hurts the boys.

“But we’re heading in the right direction and I couldn’t be happier.”

To add to the Raiders woes, hooker Josh Hodgson (leg) and lock Shaun Fensom (ankle) could face lengthy stints on the sidelines after both were taken off injured in the second half.

Stuart wasn’t sure of their conditions or injuries post-match, but suggested the situation was serious for two of his best players.

“It doesn’t look real good, I just have my fingers crossed,” he added.

Little separated the sides in the opening half-hour of the game, with both converting penalties for an easy two points.

The Raiders were the first to score through Jeremy Hawkins, who was awarded a try in the 25th minute after a magical put-down just millimetres inside the line on the Storm’s right edge.

A successful conversion and late penalty goal gave them a 10-2 lead into the break.

But the visitors came back firing with two tries in four minutes – first through Mahe Fonua on the back of some clever passing, then via Cameron Munster after a lengthy play and rushed cross-field kick.

It was only Munster’s second game in first-grade, having been brought in to replace injured No.1 Billy Slater.

Bellamy praised the 20-year-old for handling the pressure, and the rest of his side for their patience after a “flat” opening half and a late Raiders resurgence in which they almost scored with minutes to go.

“We found a spark in the second half – and we had to,” he said.

“The Raiders were very committed and they played a really controlled game of footy today.

“I was really pleased with what our blokes did to change it around sometimes it’s not that easy.

“But they did, and I was real proud of what they did.”

Bellamy paid tribute to Raiders veteran Dane Tilse, who celebrated his 200th NRL match and final appearance at home before he heads to play in the English Super League.

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