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Melbourne Storm thump Canberra Raiders 30-10 to reach NRL grand final, Cameron Smith chaired from the field

The Melbourne Storm have reached their fourth grand final in the past five years, riding a powerful first-half performance to a 30-10 win over Canberra.

But perhaps the biggest moment of the night came after game was already decided, with Cameron Smith chaired from the field in an apparent farewell to the fans at Lang Park.

He got a standing ovation and waved to the crowd as he left the field in the 75th minute before being hoisted onto the shoulders of Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane and carried through a guard of honour as they left the field.

Speculation has been rife as to whether the 37-year-old will go around again in 2021 and the post-match theatrics were the best indication that this season may be his last.

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After the game he said he did not know if it was the last game he would play at Lang Park, and said Craig Bellamy was the architect of the moment.

“I just thought it’d be a good idea in case it is [Smith’s last game at Lang Park],” Bellamy said.

If it was to be Smith’s farewell to Queensland, it was a champagne effort from him and his team.

Before about a quarter of the 37,112-strong crowd had found their seats at Lang Park, the Storm had already scored three tries.

Suliasi Vunivalu is hugged from behind by Brenko Lee during the Melbourne Storm's preliminary final against the Canberra Raiders
Suliasi Vunivalu (left) was on the end of some slick Storm play.(AAP: Darren England)

Things normalised after that, but the Storm maintained the rage to nab the win in their sixth-straight preliminary final and move on to face either Penrith or South Sydney in next Sunday’s decider.

A ticketing glitch had left thousands of fans stranded outside the ground for the first 10 minutes in Brisbane, and they would have been stunned once they got into the ground to see Melbourne already leading 16-0.

In a game tipped to be a complete toss-up, the Storm were untouchable from the jump, breaking down the left wing before Jahrome Hughes sent hard-running prop Jesse Bromwich over from close range.

The second try came from considerably further away, with a left-side shift sending Josh Addo-Carr 50 metres down the wing before popping a ball back to fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen to finish off the final 20 metres.

It became clear with the completion of the hat-trick — when a malfunctioning last-tackle play gave way to a piece of Suliasi Vunivalu brilliance, faking a grubber and stepping inside to touch down — that it was going to be Melbourne’s night.

When Raiders winger Nick Cotric had an air-swing while trying to bat a ball dead and Justin Olam flew in like Superman to score in the 24th minute, the Storm were going at a point a minute.

Once the Raiders finally got the ball in hand they held onto it for most of the final 15 minutes of the half, and even punched some holes, crossing for a try when Cotric flew highest for a George Williams bomb.

Coach Ricky Stuart clearly got his troops ready for a battle in the second half, with Dale Finucane forced 10 metres backwards and into the in-goal by a pack of Raiders on the first hit-up off the kick-off.

But a Hudson Young knock-on off the ensuing set ended that raid and for the next 20 minutes the teams engaged in the sort of tussle we had expected to see from the opening whistle.

Eventually Vunivalu batted back a Hughes bomb for hard-working forward Dale Finucane to dot down and put the game beyond doubt, with only a late Cotric try helping Canberra into double digits.


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