Toyota Cup: Round 23 Preview
There is a month of rugby league before the Toyota Cup finals and the top eight is anyone’s guess. Which side has drawn three of its last seven games? Which team is the best in attack? Why should Brad Fittler watch the Roosters Under 20’s? Find out in Matt Russell’s weekly look at the National Youth Competition.<br><b><br>He was always going to kick it</b><br><br>The script writers were hard at work in Newcastle last Sunday.<br><br>The Knights had just scored a try to trail 26-24 late in the Toyota Cup game against Canterbury.<br><br>They needed Chris Marlborough the land a tricky conversion to level proceedings.<br><br>Marlborough had made a determined and emotional return from a broken neck a week earlier.<br><br>There he was on a sunny afternoon, teeing the ball up, trying to earn a crucial premiership point.<br><br>Behind him, a filling grandstand, named in honour of Andrew Johns, who had kicked Newcastle to success so many times and who was forced from the game by a neck injury – one sustained right near the spot where Marlborough sized up his attempt.<br><br>He struck it sweetly.<br><br>It never looked like missing.<br><br>The game finished 26-all.<br><br>As someone said in the commentary box after we’d come off air – he was always going to kick it.<br><br><b>A race between 10</b><br><br>A month from the finals and 10 teams are shooting for the final eight.<br><br>One premiership point separates the top four teams and three points separates the first seven. Who knows what order they’ll finish in!<br><br>The last finals position looks to be a race in three – Gold Coast (25pts), Wests Tigers (24), Newcastle (23).<br><br>Even Brisbane on 21 are a mathematical chance but I’ve drawn the line at Newcastle.<br><br>This week the Knights have to upset the Warriors in Auckland and hope the teams ahead slip up.<br><br>You can see that game on Sunday morning from 9.45am EST on Fox Sports 2.<br><br><b>Costly loss</b><br><br>The Warriors are cursing a shock loss to Cronulla on Saturday night 31-24.<br><br>The New Zealanders led 24-16 and could have gone joint first had they not been held scoreless after halftime.<br><br>Instead a Matthew Wright double and Chad Townsend field goal ushered the Sharks home.<br><br>Cronulla is out of finals contention but future opponents – Roosters and Titans – could suffer a finals blow if they don’t learn from the Warriors.<br><br><b>Attack, attack, attack</b><br><br>Canberra showed why it has score more points than any Toyota Cup team with a 44-34 win against Penrith on Monday.<br><br>The Raiders have scored 652 points in their 20 games at an average of 32 .<br><br>The Roosters are the only other team past 600 at this stage (604).<br><br>Fullback Sean Loxley scored three tries on Monday – the first multiple haul of his Toyota Cup career.<br><br>While Monday’s scoreline showed Canberra’s strength, it also highlighted a weakness.<br><br>The Raiders are 13th defensively.<br><br>Not what you expect from the side sitting fourth.<br><br>They should expect another stern test against the Bulldogs on Saturday.<br><br><b>Freddy’s feet</b><br><br>Roosters five-eighth Jacob Miller has a mean left-foot stop, a bit like another famous No.6 at Bondi.<br><br>Miller score three tries against the Dragons on Sunday as the tri-colours won 39-26.<br><br>He’s now scored seven tries in his last four NYC games.<br><br>A player to watch on Friday against the Sharks and through the finals.<br><br><b>Setting the trend</b><br><br>We all know about South Sydney’s stunning NRL comeback against Wests Tigers last Saturday.<br><br>Maybe the Toyota Cup team showen the senior Bunnies how.<br><br>The Tigers led the NYC game 14-nil after 60 minutes before Souths raced home to win 16-14.<br><br>Adrian Ha’angana score the first two tries of his Toyota Cup career in the win that keeps Souths one point off the premiership lead.<br><br>He’ll be chasing more tries against Melbourne on Sunday in a game Souths should win. Should!<br><br><b>Entitled to drink more than water</b><br><br>Josh Drinkwater made an impressive debut for Manly’s Under 20’s on Saturday.<br><br>He scored the Sea Eagles first try after nine minutes and landed 4/6 with boot.<br><br>Barring a charge-down try, his general kicking game was also solid.<br><br>Last year’s minor premiers this week travel to Kogarah on Monday evening.<br><br><b>Sharing it around</b><br><br>Eighth placed Gold Coast did a job on Parramatta last Friday 46-0.<br><br>All eight tries went to different players, while Jordan Rankin kicked 7/8 to finish with 18 points.<br><br>The Titans might need another 85% completion rate against North Queensland on Saturday.<br><br>The Cowboys are competition pace-setters despite a 20-all draw with Brisbane.<br><br>North Queensland had to come from 10 down in the final 20 minutes to share the points – the side’s third draw in it’s last seven games!<br><br>There is much to look forward to about Saturday’s Queensland derby.<br><br>Gold Coast forward Ryan James and North Queensland half Michael Morgan have impressed in the NRL this season.<br><br>Jordan Rankin and Kyle Feldt give each side proven point scorers.<br><br>Gold Coast has improved markedly since being pumped 48-8 by North Queensland in Round 4.<br><br>Have the Titans improved enough? Find out when Scott Sattler and I call all the action as part of Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2.