Hammer blow to Storm title hopes as Papenhuyzen suffers broken kneecap in horror Canberra loss

Melbourne have endured a horror afternoon, losing Ryan Papenhuyzen to a potentially season-ending injury and losing 20-16 to the Canberra Raiders.

Papenhuyzen was taken directly to hospital after suffering a suspected fractured patella in a 19th minute collision with Jack Wighton. He will have surgery on Monday, and if initial fears are confirmed, will likely miss a minimum of six weeks and, in all likelihood, the rest of the season.

The result sees Melbourne’s place in the top four hanging by a thread after three losses on the spin. Conversely, the win catapults the Raiders back into finals contention, lifting them level with the Roosters and Dragons and just one win behind Manly and Souths.

Papenhuyzen went down after attempting to stop Wighton, who had made a line break and almost ran straight over the top of the Storm fullback as he went for a head-on legs tackle.

In the aftermath, he appeared unable to put any weight on his knee and was eventually removed with the help of medical staff.

He has already missed significant time this year with a knee complaint after sustaining a PCL tear in Round 9, tearing his hamstring in the same incident.

The Raiders were undoubtedly assisted by Papenhuyzen’s absence. They scored within five minutes of his departure and were able to defend several waves of Storm attack.

Papenhuyzen had been very active in the game before his injury and without him, it took a while for the Storm to reorganise their attack. Though Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes were buzzing around, the thrusts were easily parried by the Raiders.

Melbourne looked like they had turned it around late, but were pegged back by a miracle try from James Schiller.

Jordan Rapana had been binned for a high shot and with a man light, the defensive resolve that had characterised the Raiders in the first half was stretched too far.

They regrouped, however, and managed to turn Melbourne away on several occasions – one an exceptional try-saver from Xavier Savage – that proved crucial in securing the win.

Papenhuyzen was everywhere early on. He backed up a Munster break on the first set of the game and should have created a try, but with Justin Olam racing on the inside, he tried to pick out Nick Meaney on the wing and was called for a forward pass.

Meaney was denied a first minute try, but got one soon after. Kenny Bromwich was the architect, going close on the left edge before freeing the arm to give the winger an easy putdown.

Papenhuyzen then gifted the Raiders their first points, throwing a no look pass on the last tackle that was easily picked off by Seb Kris for a length of the field interception try.

The fullback’s afternoon ended soon after in the incident with Wighton, and the Raiders were awarded a penalty in the aftermath that Jamal Fogarty sent through the posts for two points.

The lead was soon extended. With Melbourne reorganising their defence, Canberra managed to create some second phase play close to the line via Corey Harawira-Naera, resulting in Schiller scoring at the corner.

The Storm were enjoying a lot of field position, but were unable to make it count. Hughes seemed to have scored from a Munster kick, but while everyone else celebrated, the halfback knew that he had knocked on.

Schiller nearly grabbed a second at the other end, only to be denied by a flying Olam, before another wave of Storm pressure was repelled by the Raiders.

The second half began with the Raiders well on top. Jordan Rapana went very close, but Meaney did enough to prevent him from staying inside the field of play.

The effort in defence was paid off at the other end of the field. After the Raiders were pinged for a penalty on the last tackle, Hughes took a quick tap and caught Canberra cold.

The Raiders copped another blow soon after. Rapana caught Marion Seve square in the jaw with a forearm and was sat down for 10 minutes.

Melbourne capitalised immediately. Kenny Bromwich’s pass was batted down by Schiller with the line begging, and from the repeat set, Harry Grant burrowed beneath Joseph Tapine to put the Storm ahead.

The Raiders seemed to be going nowhere, but got a miracle play to grab the lead back.

Not for the first time, it was Schiller who made the impact, with the winger able to dribble a kick behind Meaney, skirt around the corner post and regather within millimetres of the dead ball line for a superb individual try.

From the kick off, the recently returned Rapana was collected high by Nelson Asofa-Solomona and, much to the distain of the Raiders, was merely put on report rather than binned.

Rapana was taken for a HIA, and the Raiders then lost Schiller to an ankle injury and with eight to play. Melbourne pushed and pushed but looked at times rudderless in attack.

Xavier Savage then had a try taken off him after failing to ground a kick, before knocking the ball from Hughes’ grasp as he dove for the line late on.

In the end, it was a match-saving intervention: Melbourne were unable to get back into good ball and the Raiders saw the final moments out for a vital win.

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