The 2003 Finals series kicked off on Friday night with the Raiders going down 30-18 to Melbourne at a freezing cold Canberra Stadium. It was an awesome display from the Storm who overcame a 12 point deficit to completely out-gun the Raiders' defence and put the Green Machine's 2003 aspirations on hold.
Saturday football started with the razzle-dazzle Warriors defeating the Bulldogs by 48-22 at the Showground. Warriors star, Francis Meli scored no less than 5 tries - the highest ever for a player in a finals match. It was a tremendous display from the New Zealanders who ripped through and the Canterbury defence just wide of the ruck and simply looked unstoppable. The Warriors were fantastic to watch and at one stage scored 32 points in 32 minutes to completely demoralise the Bulldogs.
Saturday night saw the Roosters send the Knights' 2003 season packing with a convincing 36-8 win at Aussie Stadium. Leading 30-2, the Roosters played a near faultless first half denying the Knights any opportunity to get a look-in and giving the defending premiers red-hot favouritism to take out this year's honours. Newcastle held their own in the second half but this had as much to do with Easts shutting down the match as it did with the Knights trying to get up off the floor.
The Sunday match saw the mighty Panthers end Brisbane's season with a 28-18 win at Penrith Stadium. It was a come-from-behind victory for the Panthers who found themselves down 18-10 at half time against a desperate Broncos outfit. But in typical fashion, the Panthers re-grouped to come back and secure victory - the turning point being in the 53rd minute and a sensational intercept try to Ryan Girdler.
Next week: SEMI FINALS Warriors v Raiders at Aussie Storm v Bulldogs at Aussie
QUALIFYING FINALS - WEEK ONE: results at a glance home team listed first
RAIDERS 18 Tries: J Monaghan, Lolesi, M Monaghan Goals: Schifcofske 3/4 defeated by STORM 30 Tries: Bai 2, Orford, Moala, Geyer, Smith Goals: Orford 3/6 Friday 12 Sep 2003 7:30 PM Canberra Stadium Referee: Tim Mander Video Referee: Graeme West Crowd: 14,094 Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Orford (Storm) 2 - R Kearns (Storm) 1 - C Smith (Storm)
BULLDOGS 22 Tries: Vagana, El Masri, O'Meley, Utai Goals: El Masri (3/4) defeated by WARRIORS 48 Tries: Meli 5, Webb 2, Tony, Faumuina Goals: Webb 6/7, Faumuina 1/2 Saturday 13 Sep 2003 5:30 PM Sydney Showground Crowd - 18,312 Referee: Bill Harrigan Video Referee: Tim Mander Crowd: 18,312 Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - F Meli (Warriors) 2 - S Faumuina (Warriors) 1 - C Toopi (Warriors)
ROOSTERS 36 Tries: Flannery 2, Wing, Catic, Cross, Byrne, Goals: Crocker 3/4, Fitzgibbon 3/3 defeated KNIGHTS 8 Tries: M Gidley Goals: Abraham 2/2 Saturday 13 Sep 2003 7:30 PM Aussie Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead Video Referee: Phil Cooley Crowd: 23,853 Leagueunlimited.com's players of the match: 3 - B Fittler (Roosters) 2 - L Ricketson (Roosters) 1 - C Wing (Roosters)
PANTHERS 28 Tries: Lewis 2, Ross, Girdler, Sattler Goals: Girdler 4/5 defeated BRONCOS 18 Tries: Kelly 2, Minto Goals: Devere 3/4 Sunday 14 Sep 2003 3:00 PM Penrith Football Stadium Referee: Stephen Clark Video Referee: Chris Ward Crowd: 18,534 Leagueunlimited.com players of the match 3 - R Girdler (Panthers) 2 - C Gower (Panthers) 1 - S Donato (Panthers)