Toyota Cup Preview: Round 12

St George-Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers
WIN Stadium, Wollongong – Friday 5:20pm
After a tight win over the Cronulla Sharks last weekend, the St George-Illawarra Dragons are on track for 10 wins in a row and will go into Friday’s clash against the Penrith Panthers as favourites in front of a home crowd at WIN Stadium Wollongong.

Strong upfront, the junior Dragons impressive form has come off the back of the platform laid by props Trent Merrin and Thomas Hancock, whilst hooker Mitch Rein has been working hard from hooker to give halves Rosser and Henry so much time this season.

Out wide, the Dragon’s three-quarter combination of Kane Linnett and Joe Vickery are two to watch, making between them the most line breaks, and scoring the most tries out of anyone in the competition this season. Panther’s debutant, Michael Mate will have his work cut out trying to contain these two.

Now whilst the Dragons might be looking impressive, they’re not unstoppable, and as the Panthers showed in Round 8 when they thrased last years premiers, the Raiders in Canberra, they can mix it with the best sides in this competition.

Referee: Gavin Morris
Touch Judges: Jon Stone, Melissa Yates


Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks
Parramatta Stadium, Parramatta – Saturday 5:15pm
Despite both teams being based in the bottom quarter of the Toyota Cup ladder, this match actually promises to be one of the more exciting clashes this weekend, with both teams having no issues scoring points or playing entertaining football, more that they seem to have an uncanny ability to snatch a loss from the jaws of victory.

The return of Ben Orcher to the Sharks line up, plus an impressive performance by debutant Haydn Peacock last weekend against the Dragons will give the Sharks confidence going into the must win clash, whilst the Eels will be expecting a strong performance from captain Taniela Lasalo to help turn their season around.

Referee: Luke Potter
Touch Judges: Shane Charman, Jason Walsh


Newcastle Knights v Bulldogs
EnergyAustralia Stadium – Saturday 12:45pm
Newcastle and the Hunter boasts one of the most impressive nurseries of junior Rugby League talent in the world, however despite the massive resources the club can call upon, it hasn’t seemed to have translated into on field success. The Knights, currently sit 15th on the Toyota Cup ladder, and whilst they may have secured four wins so far this season, the club is leaking 30 points a game in defence, whilst struggling to score 20 a game themselves.

The Bulldogs on the other hand are looking like premiership contenders with point scoring machines Simpson, Afu, Jack and Minto all starting to hit form.

For the Knights to stop the Bulldogs at home, they will need another strong point scoring effort from centre Peter Mata’utia.

Referee: Adam Gee
Touch Judges: Matt Hawkins, David Ryan


Warriors v Wests Tigers
Mt Smart Stadium – Sunday 1:45pm
Much like their Telstra Premiership sides, the Warriors and Wests Tigers are two of the more unpredictable teams in the competition, usually winning games no one expects, and then losing the ones they have been installed as favourites.

At home the Warriors would be slightly favoured with their 80% winning record at Mt Smart Stadium, but after slow starts in their past four games, they run the risk of being behind by 20 at half time against a very attacking Wests Tigers outfit.

Jake Mullaney is the player to watch from the Wests Tigers, with the fullback impressing so far in season 2009 with 78 points to his name. A strong kick return from him, will give the Tigers the momentum they need to wear out the large Warriors forward pack.

Referee: Shane Rehem
Touch Judges: Aaron Kesha, Daniel Caddy


South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders
ANZ Stadium – Monday 4:30pm
Two weeks ago going into this match it would be fair to say the Raiders were gone, after kicking off their Toyota Cup campaign with four wins in a row, the green machine fell off the tracks and crashed to four big losses in a row against bottom of the ladder sides.

After some soul searching it looks like they are back though, with big wins against the Storm and Warriors giving the side a new lease of life and moving them back into the top four.

The Rabbitohs on the other hand have lost their last two in tight encounters and will be desperate to get back into the winners circle.

One to watch for the Raiders will be Josh Dugan, after making his Telstra Premiership debut, the Canberra fullback has only improved and is now one of the most attacking fullbacks in the competition.

Referee: Rob Bowen
Touch Judges: Rick McFarlane & Gavin West