Matt Russell's Toyota Cup preview

Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell has his weekly look at the Toyota Cup, this week involving games from New Zealand and Campbelltown.

What second half?


When I buy my future Cox Plate winner, will someone please remind me not to call it "Green Machine" or "Raider".

I can see it now... leading for home by a big margin only to be swamped by everything but the ambulance.

The Canberra Raiders' NRL team was rundown by Souths on Sunday 26-24, despite leading 24-6 at halftime.

Perhaps the trend was set by their Toyota Cup team, which led the Rabbits 12-0 and 16-6, only to be beaten 38-20.

Like their NRL counterparts, it's not the first time the Under 20s have given up a handy lead.

In round one they led Penrith 16-6 but were beaten 46-26.

Coming good..

If the Raiders are to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season they have to beat the Warriors in New Zealand on Saturday.

A few weeks ago that would have sounded easy.. but not now.

Despite injuries and suspensions, the Warriors have won three in a row against the Bulldogs, Panthers and Storm.

Most recently, they put 46 points on the Storm, running in eight tries through seven different scorers. Only CarlosTuimavave got a double.

The Warriors have played Canberra three times in Toyota Cup history, losing the first two before a 28-24 win in their most recent encounter late last season.

If they can do it again, the Warriors will certainly have shaken their slow start after going four weeks without a win to start the competition.

Catch all the action to start another big Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2. The boys are on air from 2pm Eastern.

The cap fits..

It must be tough being a Melbourne Storm player at the moment, in any grade.

I wonder how much of the Under 20s big loss against the Warriors can be attributed to the club's salary cap crisis.

All Toyota Cup teams also have a salary cap - $250,000 for the top 20 players, another $50,000 for the other players used, and more for educational and relocation purposes.

While Melbourne's NRL cap has been breached, the club's Toyota Cup limit has not.

That allows the Storm to keep last year's premiership and compete as a legal team for two premiership points each week.

It was also good to see two of last year's stars - Matt Duffie and Gareth Widdop - step up to NRL so well on a drama charged Sunday evening.

High in the sadddle..

The Cowboys still head the competition after a stunning start against Parramatta last Friday night.

In a storyline fitting one of John Wayne's best Westerns, the young Cowboys staged one of the great rugby league ambushes.

Twenty minutes after entering Dairy Farmers Stadium, Parramatta had been hit with six shots and lay staring at a 34-0 scoreline.

By the time North Queensland rode off for the final time it was 50-14.

Fullback Wayne Ulugia and hooker James Segeyaro led the charge with two tries each.

Both have been fantastic for the Cowboys, but to show you how highly Alex Elisala is regarded at the club, he returns from injury in the custodian role against Melbourne this week, forcing Ulugia back to a wing.

Another half century..

Manly also hit 50 points in a big win against the Titans on Monday.

It will come as little surprise to read that William Hopoate scored three more tries - that's eight for the season now.

I was just as pleased to see Lama Tasi score the last two.

He was been one of Manly's most consistent Under 20's - this season and last - with any points he scores richly deserved.

Tasi was part of last year's Manly side that won the minor premiership before consecutive losses in the finals saw them slide straight out the back door.

Don't expect them to go so easily if they pick up another minor premiership this year.

They are right on track in equal first with the Cowboys.

Big bucks..

Manly's Under 20's continue to be the target of some of the biggest bets in Toyota Cup history.

On Monday, one TAB Sportsbet punter had $40,000 on the 20's (-15.5) and NRL team (-8.5) giving away the start in each.

The punter was cruising after the 20s won 50-6 and looked home when Des Hasler's men led 22-12 with 10 to play.

But then... well you know the rest.

And another half century..


The biggest haul of Round 7 went to the Roosters, 54-22 against St George Illawarra.

Ben Jones crossed twice in the first 20 minutes and Mark Kheirallah finished with three.

After two tough years in the Toyota Cup, the Roosters sit inside the top eight with four wins and three losses.

This week they have to stop the high-scoring Wests Tigers at Campbelltown, who are shooting for six straight wins.

Tigers' halfback Jay Florimo has been a big improver this year and collected Scott Sattler's Young Gun of the Day award at Penrith last weekend.

Then there is fullback Jake Mullaney as part of a lethal back three and another big, willing forward pack.

Expect plenty of points at the redeveloped Campbelltown - which is now a far cry from the old Orana Park, which this commentator remembers fondly as the venue for his schoolboy athletics carnivals!

Injured Bulldog prop Ben Hannant will make his Toyota Cup commentary debut.

Join us on Fox Sports 2 from 11.30am Eastern on Sunday.