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Raiders, Panthers win NRL trials

By AAP .
9 February 2013 12:02AM EST

THE Canberra Raiders and Penrith Panthers recorded imrpessive NRL trial match victories on Friday night over the Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers respectively.

The Storm are set to pay a heavy price from the 40-8 trial loss to Canberra, with Kevin Proctor, Matt Duffie and Maurice Blair all picking up injuries which will probably rule them out of the upcoming World Club Challenge against Leeds.

Proctor will definitely miss the February 22 game after damaging the medial ligament in his left knee, while winger Duffie (right hamstring) and utility back Blair (cheekbone) will anxiously await the results of scans on Saturday.

It capped off a very disappointing night at Simonds Stadium for the Storm, who were thumped by a Raiders team missing six big names on All-Stars duty.

"Kevin Proctor's is a bad one, Bobby Blair with his eye socket or cheekbone (is in a) bit of trouble and Matt Duffie with his hamstring," said Storm assistant coach Kevin Walters.

"All those three would have expected to have been on the plane, but now they're not.

"They're injured, so we have to try to come up with some others."

The Storm will name their WCC squad on Saturday, two days before flying to England.

Melbourne were without captain Cameron Smith and Justin O'Neill - both on duty for Saturday's All-Stars game in Brisbane - while halfback Cooper Cronk was injured.

But despite pulling out of the NRL All-Stars squad last month with an ankle injury, Billy Slater made cameos early in each half on Friday for Melbourne before being replaced at fullback by youngster Ben Hampton.

"I know we had some guys missing, but to put in a performance like that was very disappointing," said Walters.

"Particularly defensively, one of the strong trademarks of the Storm and today it was non-existent.

"I think most of it was down to attitude."

The only downside from Friday's game for the impressive Raiders was a medial ligament strain to centre Jarrod Croker, last year's leading NRL points-scorer.

"We don't know the extent of the strain, whether it's a grade one or a grade two," said Canberra coach David Furner.

"I think he should be right for the start of the season from what I've been told."

The Raiders were never going to be headed after scoring the first five tries of the game.

French international Dimitri Pelo scored a first-half double for the Raiders, while their other winger, Sandor Earl, also crossed twice.

Canberra's other try-scorers were Josh Dugan, Josh Papalii, Haydon Hodge and Edrick Lee.

"It is a trial and as a coach you're just pleased that the areas you've been working on during the pre-season, that you are able to implement them during games," said Furner.

"Having back-to-back sets, obviously you've got to use them, but it does take a fair bit of juice out of the opposition.

"In that first half we had five or six sets in a row that we were able to score points off."

The Raiders have the biggest contingent of any NRL club on All-Stars duty, with Jake Foster, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Joel Thompson, Reece Robinson and David Shillington all set to play in Saturday night's game in Brisbane.

Melbourne's only tries were scored by Duffie and local Victorian product Richard Kennar.

Promising Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco survived his first hitout since the knee reconstruction which ruined his rookie campaign but it was Penrith who won an NRL trial thriller 34-32 in Bathurst on Friday night.

With star pivot Lachlan Coote a late inclusion for the Panthers, halfback Blake Austin kicked the match-winning conversion after the siren from close range to end an entertaining contest.

Both sides featured a smattering of NRL regulars, but most eyes were on Tedesco, whose top-grade debut in 2012 lasted just a matter of minutes before he ruptured the ACL in the opening round.

He played the first 40 minutes at Carrington Park on Friday night before being rested.

Coote was a surprise starter for the Panthers, who also had Geoff Daniela, Jeremy Latimore, Dayne Weston and Clint Newton in the line-up.

Weston and Newton were both powerful, but the performance of former South Sydney flyer James Roberts in the centres will no doubt give hope to Penrith fans looking to life after the departure of Michael Jennings.

Roberts was dangerous throughout, setting up Coote for one try with some blinding speed before scoring what proved to be the match-winner in the final minute after the Panthers had regathered a short kick-off.

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