Toyota Cup: Round 24 Preview

The Toyota Cup is heading towards its closest finish yet. With two points separating the top four teams, and three points between the top six, every result is crucial. Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell looks at another drama-charged week in the National Youth Competition.<br><br><b>Wrong man... right call?</b><br><br>North Queensland can thank Josh Coyle for the fact it enters Round 24 in outright first.<br><br>The Cowboys and Gold Coast were locked at 22-all in the last few moments at Skilled Park, when Coyle raced up to pressure the field-goal attempt from Michael Parker-Walshe.<br><br>The shot missed but Coyle made contact with the kicker, resulting in a gift penalty to Kyle Feldt and a 24-22 win to the Cowboys.<br><br>The touch judge named Kurt Foggo as the culprit, which only inflamed the frustration of my co-commentator Scott Sattler.<br><br>'Satts' said the touchy got the player AND decision wrong.<br><br>While the player was wrong, I couldn't argue with the decision on replay, especially in the current climate of protecting kickers.<br><br>There were a couple of shattered Titans after the game including Jordan Rankin, who nailed only 1/5 with the boot.<br><br>The result cost the Gold Coast a place in the top eight and kept North Queensland one point clear on top.<br><br>Footnote: Had it stayed 22-all, it would have been North Queensland's fourth draw in eight games!<br><br><b>The fallout</b><br><br>The match-review committee backed the touch judge by charging Josh Coyle for his late contact with Michael Parker-Walsh.<br><br>However an early plea means Coyle is free to play a crucial game against the Roosters on Monday.<br><br>The starting prop is set to play a key role as the Titans walk the finals tightrope over the next few weeks.<br><br><b>Still at the judiciary<br></b><br>Ben Shorter will be lucky to play again this year after the league continued its tough stance on dangerous tackles.<br><br>Already the Warriors and Canterbury have lost players to long-term suspensions and now Manly have joined the list.<br><br>Shorter is looking at between five to seven weeks on the sideline after a dangerous tackle in the 80th - yes 80th! - minute of Monday's game against St George Illawarra.<br><br>The Sea Eagles were crushed 46-14 and have to re-group in time for the Warriors at Brookvale on Saturday.<br><br>Last year's minor premiers finish with games against the Warriors, Roosters and Bulldogs - three top eight teams - and are no guarantee to make the finals.<br><br><b>200 up</b><br><br>The leading scorers in the NRL and NYC passed 200 points within hours of each other in Round 23.<br><br>After Rooster Todd Carney raised 200 against Cronulla on Friday night, North Queensland's Kyle Feldt was first past 200 in the Toyota Cup on Saturday.<br><br>Feldt was soon passed by Aidan Sezer, who collected 24 points in Canterbury's romp against Canberra, and even Chris Medcalf's six points for the Raiders were enough to bump him past 200.<br><br><b>Curtain raiser or main event?</b><br><br>On a night where two NRL teams might go through the motions, get in early to watch North Queensland and Canterbury's Under 20's in Townsville.<br><br>The Cowboys are clinging to top spot as they prepare for their first Toyota Cup finals appearance.<br><br>The Dogs are charging towards the finals in fifth as they continue an amazing comeback from seven winless weeks to start the competition.<br><br>Both teams are unbeaten in eight games.<br><br>While the Cowboys edged out the Gold Coast last weekend, Canterbury demolished Canberra 60-18 by scored 11 tries.<br><br>It's the match of the round, narrowly ahead of the Roosters v Titans on Monday.<br><br><b>Capital punishment</b><br><br>Canberra surely will have done plenty of tackling practice this week.<br><br>The Raiders have the attack to win a competition, having scored 670 points at 31.9 per game.<br><br>They have the defence to fail horribly in the finals, having given up 644 points at 30.6 per game.<br><br>Saturday's 60-18 loss to Canterbury is a case in point.<br><br>The Raiders sit sixth but could finish much higher if they start tackling.<br><br>The Dragons should ask plenty of questions on Sunday, fresh from a 46-14 win against Manly.<br><br>You can catch all the action as part of NRL Sunday from 11.30am on Fox Sports 2.<br><br><b>Giant killers</b><br><br>The Sharks are out of finals contention but are out to take a few teams with them.<br><br>Fresh from an upset victory against the Warriors, Cronulla did it again against another top four team, the Roosters 20-16.<br><br>Joe Rokoqo scored twice in the first 20 minutes to start a great Friday night for the club at home.<br><br>On form, the Sharks should be too good for Melbourne this weekend.<br><br>Then they'll aim to cruel Gold Coast's hopes.<br><br>There's no reason they couldn't finish the year on a five-game winning streak against Penrith<br><br>Easily said, I know, but Sharks NRL assistant Joey Grima promised weeks ago his NYC team would finish on a high.<br><br><b>Great escape one</b><br><br>At 26-16 down against Newcastle on Sunday, the Warriors were headed for a costly loss.<br><br>Just as the Knights looked like taking a massive step towards the finals, tries to Matthew Robinson and Siuatonga Likiliki and a conversion from Shaun Johnson gave the New Zealanders a last ditch win.<br><br>The Warriors are third but, with just three points separating the top six, can't afford a loss.<br><br>The Sea Eagles are just as desperate in seventh.<br><br>They meet at Brookvale on Saturday after Manly won their Round 4 encounter in New Zealand 30-12.<br><br>It shapes as an interesting Super Saturday encounter on Fox Sports 2 from 3.15pm EST.<br><br><b>Great escape two</b><br><br>How South Sydney beat Melbourne last week is beyond me.<br><br>The Rabbitohs trailed 42-22 with 13 minutes to play before they raced in four unanswered tries to win 46-42.<br><br>Halfback Adam Reynolds continued his good season with 18 points.<br><br>Still, it's a worrying scoreline for a team sitting second.<br><br>Souths will look for a more commanding display against Penrith on Friday night.<br><br><b>Great escape three</b><br><br>Wests Tigers clawed themselves back into the top eight but only after giving Penrith a 24-point start on Sunday.<br><br>The Panthers led 24-0 after 27 minutes.<br><br>The Tigers scored the next nine tries to win 44-24 as Jake Clarke bagged three tries and Ben Murdoch-Masila a double.<br><br>If they make the eight, with Jake Mullaney fit and firing, a few other teams might be looking over their shoulders.<br>