Toyota Cup: Round 14 Preview
Fox Sports Toyota Cup commentator Matt Russell has his weekly look at the National Youth Competition, which this week earnt special praise from Tigers NRL coach Tim Sheens.<br><b><br>Adding some Sheen to the Tigers..</b><br><br>When Wests Tigers beat Canterbury last Friday night, they also put the Toyota Cup up in lights.<br><br>Repeated big fends from Andrew Fifita helped give the Tigers momentum; Rob Lui landed a field goal to put the visitors in front for the first time; and Simon Dwyer crossed for the match sealer.<br><br>All three were part of the Tigers’ Toyota Cup Grand Final team last year.<br><br>The club has embraced the National Youth Competition since it started and that positive attitude has seen the Tigers benefit.<br><br>Again they’re equal first in the Under 20’s and again the lineup includes several players who look like NRL players of the future.<br><br>As Tim Sheens told me last Friday night; “I don’t know why people keep knocking the Toyota Cup!”<br><br><b>Exploring the SFS..</b><br><br>Nathan Gardner covered more territory than Christopher Columbus to score a brilliant try on Saturday night.<br><br>After gathering a kick in the north eastern corner, he explored the flank, changed tack, set sail for the south western corner and landed with ease.<br><br>It was spectacular stuff from the Sydney born, Cabramatta junior.<br><br>He impressed in Parramatta’s Toyota Cup ranks last year and did likewise for the Sharks Under 20’s earlier this season. <br><br>In fact he scored four tries in a comeback win against South Sydney in Round 3.<br><br>He’s an aggressive competitor who can back that up with speed and skill.<br><br>A man who played the first half of the season in Toyota Cup is set to finish with the NRL Try of the Year!<br><br><b>Now for the second half..</b><br><br>As we enter the second half of the home-and-away season, the Toyota Cup minor premiership is still anyone’s guess.<br><br>Four teams share top spot on 18 points… in fact the top seven teams are separated by only one win.<br><br>Manly - top with North Queensland, Wests Tigers and Souths – might have the inside running to repeat last year’s No1 finish with a game in hand against Brisbane, but it’s no certainty.<br><br>Adding to the intrigue is the emergence of teams like Canterbury, Gold Coast and Penrith, who remain outside the eight but have hinted in recent weeks they’re coming good.<br><br>This is a good competition. Stay tuned.<br><br><b>Dogs unrestrained..</b><br><br>Canterbury made it five in a row on Saturday when Peter Tuiafiso scored an 80th minute try to break a 30-all deadlock with Wests Tigers.<br><br>The Dogs had seven different scorers in another complete team display.<br><br>They are fighting back from a horror start to the season, where they opened with seven winless weeks.<br><br>It’s testament to the patience and hard work from coach Andy Patmore and his men.<br><br>They deserve a rest with this week’s bye.<br><br><b>No rest for the wicked..</b><br><br>Be assured, Newcastle’s Under 20’s have had a difficult week after losing a bizarre game against Penrith on Saturday.<br><br>The Knights were riding high when they scored 26 unanswered points to lead the home team 26-6 after 31 minutes.<br><br>They then gave up 32 unanswered points in 16 minutes.<br><br>If you’re struggling to keep up, that’s a 58 point swing.<br><br>Penrith won 64-32.<br><br>As Knights coach Garth Brennan leant on a fence after fulltime, it was lucky he had no dangerous instruments in his hands. To say he looked angry is an understatement.<br><br>It’s the second time this year Newcastle has given up a big lead, having headed South Sydney 22-0 only to be beaten 48-34<br><br>It’s also the second time the Knights have let an opponent pass 60 points, having led Melbourne 10-0 before being beaten 62-10.<br><b><br>For the record books..</b><br><br>The 96 points in the Newcastle-Penrith game was the most ever scored in a Toyota Cup game.<br><br>It beat the previous mark of 90, which had been reached twice.<br><br><b>All Seijka-ed Up..</b><br><br>Remember this name – Harry Seijka.<br><br>He was signed by Penrith on a big three-year contract and has perhaps cruelly been lumbered with the “next Brandy” tag, in reference to Panthers’ halfback great Greg Alexander.<br><br>The Bathurst boy has been playing fullback in Toyota Cup but exploded when shifted to his customary halfback role on Saturday.<br><br>He kicked well, ran and dummied, organized the troops and generally looked pretty dangerous.<br><br>Oh, I almost forgot, he scored three tries!<br><br>What are we going to get this week..<br><br>Who knows what’s going to happen in Newcastle on Sunday.<br><br>The Fox Sports television game has Newcastle hosting the Warriors.<br><br>The Knights gave up 64 points last week.<br><br>The Warriors gave up 0… yes none, zero, duck egg, nothing, diddly squat, zilch!<br><br>Want to find out what happens next? Watch NRL Sunday from 11.30am EST on Fox Sports 2 when Simon Woolford joins me for all the action.<br><br><b>Stop streaking..</b><br><br>Spare a thought for Parramatta’s Toyota Cup team.<br><br>They’ve lost 11 in a row – five of them by single figure points.<br><br>The most recent result 29-22 against Melbourne at least stopped the rot for the Storm.<br><br>It had gone eight games without victory.<br><b><br>Hard times..</b><br><br>North Queensland has led the Toyota Cup since the start of the season but has fallen on hard times lately.<br><br>Consecutive losses for the first time this season, combined with three suspensions from the Manly brawl, threaten to see them bucked from top spot by Canberra on Saturday.<br><br>The Raiders, though, have their own problems to deal with – namely a 52-24 loss to the battling Gold Coast last week.<br><br>I look forward to seeing the two fullbacks in action.<br><br>Raider Haydon Hodge is a former Australian Schoolboy, who scored Canberra’s first two tries against the Titans last week.<br><br>Cowboy Wayne Ulugia is an excitement machine who you’ll spot by looking for the brightest boots… normally purple.<br><br>Jason Costigan and Scott Sattler will bring you all the action at Townsville as part of Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2.