Round 9 Toyota Cup preview

Fox Sports commentator <b>Matt Russell</b> takes his weekly look at the Toyota Cup, including previews of games at Manly and Newcastle.<br><br><b>Where did that come from..</b><br><br>Congratulations to Craig Culnane and his Penrith Panthers after their first win since Round 1.<br><br>Confidence must have been pretty low heading to the Gold Coast on the back of six straight losses and month of conceding at least 40 points.<br><br>They stopped the rot with a 48-22 victory on the Gold Coast built around try-scoring doubles from Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Evrett Vaurasi and Andrew Pelasio.<br><br>Who would have picked that? Well, one of our stats men did, backing them at 13+ and rubbing his crystal ball with glee afterwards.<br><br>I'm reliably informed the stats man is still yet to shout his department. What a Wally!<br><br><b>Off the leash..</b><br><br>Maybe it was something in the Western Sydney drinking water last week, but the Bulldogs also had a win... their first!<br><br>The Dogs mustn't have been fed for a few days and devoured the Eels inside 10 minutes, where they scored three tries, two of them to Pao Pele.<br><br>The real star was Martin Taupau with 22 tackles, 21 hit-ups and 221 metres run.<br><br>Including the end of last season, Canterbury had gone nine games without a win although they did get a point in Round 3 with a 40-all draw against the Roosters.<br><br>That theory about the drinking water is shot to bits by the fact the Bulldogs victory confines Parramatta to last.<br><b><br>And another first..</b><br><br>Cronulla must have sung its victory song with a little extra gusto last weekend after beating St George Illawarra for the first time.<br><br>The Sharks had lost their first four derbies since the Toyota Cup started in 2008.<br><br>They downed the Dragons this time 20-10.<br><br>It was most unlike a Toyota Cup clash... 10-all until Eliah Bailey and Nathan Gardner scored in the last two minutes.<br><br><b>Consistently inconsistent..</b><br><br>The Cronulla result gave the Dragons some unwanted consistency... consecutive losses.<br><br>Until them it had been loss/win over the early rounds.<br><br>The Dragons must improve quickly if they want to keep pace with the top teams like Manly, who they play on Saturday at Brookvale.<br><br>Both teams are off defeat after Manly fell to South Sydney 30-24.<br><br>Fox Sports viewers get to see St George Illawarra for the first time this season and there are some players worth watching.<br><br>Winger Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa is a survivor from last year and dangerous out wide; Beau Henry hopes to play NRL this season after being the 2009 Toyota Cup Player of the Year; and Mitchell Rein is a busy and talented hooker.<br><br>They have Papua New Guinea coach and former NRL star Adrian Lam as coach.<br><br>David Penna's Manly have loved the television this year, beating Parramatta and the Sharks while "on the box".<br><br>William Hopoate scored two more tries last week and his forward pack is one of the best in the competition.<br><br>Join myself and Braith Anasta at the later kickoff time of 5.15pm EST for all the action on Fox Sports 2. As part of our extended pre-game show from 4.45pm, we'll look back at some of the Under 20s highlights and performers from the first eight rounds. <br><br><b>Here come the Warriors..</b><br><br>The Warriors have surged into Toyota Cup contention on the back of four straight wins.<br><br>It's been a rapid recovery after they went winless for the first month of the competition.<br><br>They've now beaten the Bulldogs, Panthers, Storm and Raiders, scoring 36 points or more on each occasion.<br><br>Making it even more impressive for coach John Ackland, the team has been without half Shaun Johnson, who's making his comeback from injury through the NSW Cup with Auckland.<br><br>A big test awaits after this week's bye when they host top-of-the-table North Queensland.<br><br>After that it's the in-form South Sydney, also at Mount Smart Stadium.<br><br>Win those and the Warriors will be in a great position to improve on their first two Toyota Cup seasons, which have both finished with finals appearances. <br><br><b>Hot streak..</b><br><br>Talking about form teams, Wests Tigers made it six in a row by beating the Roosters on Sunday.<br><br>At the start of the year, Grant Jones' men made it a goal to win five of their first eight. <br><br>They've done better than that by one - a fair effort after losing their first two.<br><br>Jay Florimo continues his rapid improvement at halfback, judged Young Gun of the day by Scott Sattler and Ben Hannant in consecutive games.<br><br>Making the picture even better are the lethal back three in Jake Mullaney, Sama Savao and Faleula Finau; brute force up front in Neil Begovich and Ben Murdoch-Masila; a relentless captain in Matt Hyland; and the return of players like Aaron Woods in coming weeks.<br><br>They score from anywhere at anytime, but just as importantly, they've given up only 16 points in each of their last three victories.<br><br><b>That Feldt good..</b><br><br>Kyle Feldt made sure North Queensland stayed on top after a 34-30 win against Melbourne.<br><br>Feldt scored two tries and kicked five goals for a tally of 18 points.<br><br>His kicking percentage is the best in the league and proved vital again.<br><br>The Tigers are the only team to beat the Cowboys this season.<br><br>The Roosters get a crack at the Sydney Football Stadium on Monday.<br><br><b>Hard to Copley..</b><br><br>While mentioning some of the Toyota Cup stars, Dale Copley continues to score tries.<br><br>He scored two more in a 58-20 thrashing of Newcastle last weekend and now tops the league with 11 in seven games.<br><br>He's crossed in all but one of his Toyota Cup appearances this season.<br><br>Copley played four NRL games last year and has one appearance this season.<br><br>There are more to come for the pharmacy student. <br><br><b>Bunch of desperates..</b><br><br>The struggling Newcastle and Gold Coast do battle at Energy Australia Stadium on Sunday.<br><br>The Knights have lost four in a row and the Titans three in a row.<br><br>They sit 12th and 13th respectively and are watching 2010 slip away.<br><br>Brothers Peter and Chanel Mata'utia play together for Newcastle's Under 20's for only the second time.<br><br>Fullback Jordan Rankin and prop Ronnie Alovilli will look to inspire the Titans.<br><br>Join myself and Brett Kimmorley for all the action from 11.30am EST on Sunday.<br>