In perhaps the most astounding try assist of the season, an accidental Kris “falcon” bobbled into the path of Jordan Rapana late in the Raiders’ do-or-die final against the Storm.
All Rapana had to do was race through open pastures, collect the ball and dot down.
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“It was probably the only thing that went our way tonight,” winning coach Ricky Stuart said after the game.
”It was a tough night. We just didn’t get any good ball.
“There were some calls there that were tough calls, we didn’t get any 50-50s, and you need them. The way the players hung in there tonight makes me so proud to be their coach.
“We got a stroke of luck on that header.”
It was a topsy-turvy affair at AAMI Park and both sides looked the likely winner at different stages of the contest.
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The Raiders were rank underdogs before kick-off – having only qualified for finals thanks to a late-season Broncos capitulation – but they scored first on Saturday when Matt Timoko palmed off Cameron Munster for the opener.
The lead changed several times and Melbourne hit the strong when Nelson Asofa-Solomona stormed over the line in the 57th minute.
A converted try in the 67th minute put the Raiders in front by two and set up a thrilling finish.
There was less than five minutes remaining on the clock when an errant Jack Wighton pass bounced off the head of Kris and the ball was pounced on by Rapana.
The Jamal Fogarty conversion made it an eight-point lead and ultimately Melbourne could not reel in the Raiders.
It ends a run of seven straight preliminary finals for the Storm and coach Craig Bellamy.
The only injury concern for Canberra is Adam Elliott, who limped off the field. Joe Tapine was put on report for high contact and will be looking at the match review committee’s report on Sunday to learn his fate.
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