Toyota Cup: Round 19 Preview

The rep season is over. The byes are out of the way. Let's set sail for the finals. What a run it should be. The tightest Toyota Cup yet is still anyone's guess and is throwing up some fantastic rugby league at the moment. Commentator Matt Russell tells you why to tune in each Saturday and Sunday.<br><br><b>Good drawing...</b><br><br>North Queensland has achieved a rugby league rarity - two draws in three weeks.<br><br>But there are good draws and there are bad draws.<br><br>I'm tipping Cowboys coach Krisitan Woolf is describing both of his as the latter.<br><br>First his side gave up 18 points in six minutes to finish 28-all with the Melbourne Storm.<br><br>Then the Cowboys led Parramatta 22-0 at halftime but allowed the Eels to level 26-all.<br><br>Just to rub salt into the wounds, Parramatta and Melbourne are coming last and second last.<br><br>If North Queensland had gained the extra point on each occasion they'd be joint competition leaders.<br><br>Ouch!<br><br><b>Double take...</b><br><br>Last week I detailed how the average Toyota Cup score is 34-20 and dropping.<br><br>That trend will continue if teams keep providing 14-12 scorelines.<br><br>We saw it twice in Round 18.<br><br>First the Roosters edged out South Sydney and then Cronulla held on against Newcaste.<br><br>Add a 24-18, 20-12 and 26-all, and finals footy is coming well and truly.<br><br><b>Double trouble...</b><br><br>The only team to pass 40 points in Round 18 is also the hottest team in the competition.<br><br>The Bulldogs beat Melbourne 42-20 to make it eight wins from their last nine starts. (Not bad for a team that didn't win for the first seven weeks!)<br><br>Three Dogs celebrated try-scoring doubles - fullback Nathan Massey, centre Nehe Milner Skudder and second rower Josh Jackson.<br><br>As if that wasn't enough, Aidan Sezer continued his golden form with the boot, landing seven from seven.<br><br>It sets up this week's game with the second placed Roosters, who are full of pluck after success against Souths.<br><br>They have won six from nine in the same period as Canterbury's impressive run.<br><br><b>Kicking a goal...</b><br><br>Aidan Sezer's 7/7 might have been the goal-kicking highlight of Round 18 but there were other important perfect performances.<br><br>Jordan Rankin and Chris Medcalf landed 4/4 as their teams enjoyed tight wins.<br><br>The value of a super-boot can't be under-estimated as we head towards finals footy.<br><br>And while I'm at it, I can't remember a better general kicking game at Toyota Cup level than the one between Manly and Canberra on Saturday.<br><br>Opposing halves Gary Riccardi and Sam Williams made it a game of chess for long periods of play. They repeatedly kicked long, into space and pulled it up near the opposition goal-line.<br><br>Manly's completion rate was 89 per cent and Canberra's wasn't far behind.<br><br>The Raiders won where it mattered 20-12.<br><br><b>Home... sour home</b><br><br>Fresh from success at an away venue known as the fortress, Canberra should be confident about its chances at home this week but won't be.<br><br>The Raiders have won just two from seven in the capital.<br><br>It's a stat that will have to improve if the Green Machine wants to climb from seventh and cement a finals position in coming weeks.<br><br>The Raiders have the cattle to do it and two of the bulls stood out against Manly.<br><br>Uiti Baker and Shannon Boyd come off the bench. At 17-years-old there is not much change out of 190cm and 120kg. They are young monsters.<br><br>Canberra plays the Knights this week, who have lost their last two away games.<br><br>Join us from 11.30am EST on Fox Sports 2 this Sunday for LIVE and EXCLUSIVE coverage.<br><br><b>Just Cruising...</b><br><br>Cruise Wilson has escaped suspension for dangerous contact - the legs of Cronulla kicker Chad Townsend - after taking an early guilty plea.<br><br>Townsend was taken from the field on a medi-cab and took no further action after falling on the back of his neck.<br><br>Heavily concussed, it was a long, sick trip home.<br><br>His coach calls Townsend a tough rooster - even though he's a Shark - and he's been named for a must-win game against Manly this week.<br><br>Wilson appeared to have no bad intention in the tackle at all.<br><br>He seemed genuinely concerned for Townsend afterwards.<br><br>You'd expect that from the young Newcastle local who has a traineeship in disability care.<br><br><b>The case for and against...</b><br><br>So close is the competition that several coaches are nervously comparing their points differential with other clubs.<br><br>Don't doubt the double value of a big win when... one premiership point separates the top two, three points separates the top four, three points separates third to seventh and four points separates fifth to thirteenth.<br><br>Reaching for the calculator yet?<br><br><b>Where to look...</b><br><br>With the competition so close, there are some key contests this week.<br><br>Gold Coast can enter the eight if they put a massive dent in Brisbane's finals hopes.<br><br>The Sharks are playing for their season when they try and knock Manly out of the eight.<br><br>The Roosters could go top if they stop the charging Canterbury Bulldogs.<br><br>The Knights could find themselves back in the eight by knocking Canberra out.<br><br><b>Mirror, mirror...</b><br><br>It's amazing the amount of times we see an NRL trend reflected at Toyota Cup level, or vice versa... eg Canberra's inability to win at home this season.<br><br>Well the Warriors charge at NRL level is being matched by their Under 20's.<br><br>The young New Zealanders have won three in a row and four of their last five, including most recently at Penrith.<br><br>The Warriors led Penrith 8-6 with 22 minutes to play before racing in 30 points in 25 minutes.<br><br>They woke up on Monday if fourth spot!<br><br>On paper they should chalk up another win against Melbourne on Saturday.<br><br>You can see them as part of Super Saturday, which runs from 2pm on Fox Sports 2.<br>