Matt Russell's Toyota Cup Preview

Canterbury’s Toyota Cup team is the hottest in rugby league. The Warriors carry similar form and the weight of a nation. South Sydney finished as minor premiers. Canberra has been a heavyweight since the competition started. Only one can win the 2010 premiership. Who will it be? <b>Matt Russell</b> previews the second last week of the National Youth Competition.<br><br><b>Popularity plus...</b><br><br>Anyone who doubts the Toyota Cup need only look at the television ratings from last weekend.<br><br>Saturday’s thriller between Canterbury and the Roosters was the fourth ranked show on subscription television that day with 229,000 viewers – a record NYC semi final audience.<br><br>It underlines some of the fantastic rugby league we have seen from the Under 20’s and is another endorsement of rugby league’s popularity as a television sport.<br><br><b>What a finish...</b><br><br>I didn’t know whether to be happy for Canterbury or sad for the Roosters on Saturday.<br><br>The boys from Bondi were $4.50 outsiders with TAB Sportsbet after giving up nine tries in a heavy loss the previous week.<br><br>The boys from Belmore were at $1.18 having lost just one game since Round 7 and after scoring 54 points the previous week.<br><br>The Roosters led by 10 inside the final 10 minutes before Nathan Massey scored Canterbury’s winner with the last play of the game.<br><br>It makes you wonder if there is some sort of inevitability about a Dogs premiership.<br><br>The Warriors might have something to say about that.<br><br><b>Star Performers...</b><br><br>Brad Murray was outstanding in his final game for the Roosters.<br><br>A week earlier he had thrown an intercept and been below his best in the heavy loss to North Queensland.<br><br>Instead of being gun-shy against the Dogs, he fired the same pass and this time made it work.<br><br>His new club Parramatta is set to get a handy half who is not afraid to back himself or easily rattled.<br><br>Special mention must also go do Canterbury’s interchange forward Sam Kasiano - who sparked Canterbury’s late comeback - and Josh Kent’s determined run to assist in Massey’s match winner.<br><br><b>There again...</b><br><br>Canberra’s Toyota Cup team is making other clubs green with envy.<br><br>They won the competition in 2008. They reached Week 2 of the finals again in 2009. Now they are just one win from the 2010 Grand Final.<br><br>The Raiders treat the National Youth Competition with respect and importance and already the spoils are on show at the club’s NRL level.<br><br>Assisted by a home ground advantage, this year’s Raiders ended North Queensland’s season in thrilling fashion on Friday 22-18.<br><br>It was some comeback from the Green Machine, trounced by Canterbury a week earlier.<br><br><b>Cowboys can ride high...</b><br><br>Despite finishing higher than Canberra AND winning their first final, North Queensland had to play the Raiders in Canberra.<br><br>Coach Kristian Woolfe did not complain about the cruel draw and deserves plenty of credit for the way he and his team approached the game.<br><br>“We knew the rules at the start of the year,’’ he said. “It’s the way it is.”<br><br>Special mention also for Chris Grevsmuhl, who showed fearlessness on the field despite missing teeth and with a heavily swollen lip still stitched from the week before.<br><br>All that aged 17.<br><br>He and Jason Taumalolo surely give North Queensland the two best 17-year-old forwards in the land.<br><b><br>And to this week...</b><br><br><b>Warriors (2) v Canterbury (3)</b><br>Suncorp Stadium, Friday 5.15pm EST<br>Rd 5 - Warriors 36 d Dogs 30<br><br>Why Warriors can win – Rested after the week off, the young men from New Zealand return to Australia having won 10 of their last 11 and passing 40 points in three of their last four games.<br><br>Where the Warriors might struggle – How do you beat a team that seems unbeatable at the moment? A key will be stopping the off-loads from Canterbury’s big forwards.<br><br>Key Warrior – Captain Ben Henry is not only leading his side by example but scoring tries as well. He’s crossed five times in the last three games.<br><br>Why Dogs can win – They are on a 13-game unbeaten run. Even when they looked gone last week they found a way to win.<br><br>Where the Dogs might struggle – Canterbury has allowed opposition teams to hang in, even lead, in recent weeks. The Warriors are already confident and may only need “a sniff”.<br><br>Key Dog – Make that key Dogs! As we have seen in recent weeks, the Dogs have key players everywhere. For me, Aizen Sezer is the main man again. He started last week with a 40/20 and that kicking game could well be the difference.<br><br>Join myself and Scott Sattler for all the action from 5pm on Friday.<br><br><b>South Sydney (1) v Canberra (6)</b><br>ANZ Stadium, Saturday 5.15pm EST<br>Rd 7 – Souths 38 d Canberra 20<br><br>Why Souths can win – They beat Canberra by 18 points in Canberra earlier this season and came from 22-6 down to pip the Titans on the Gold Coast in Week 1 of the finals.<br><br>Where Souths might struggle – What has a week off done to the Rabbitohs. There can be no easing into this game as Canberra may not be run down like the Gold Coast.<br><br>Key Rabbit – Josh Mansour gives the team another forward on the wing. His high work rate is matched by his effective ball running. His stats for metres run, dummy half runs and tackle busts are among the best in the league.<br><br>Why Canberra can win – Hindered by defensive woes for most of the season, Canberra last week kept a dangerous North Queensland to 18 points. If they keep Souths under 20 points, the Raiders will fancy their chances.<br><br>Where Canberra might struggle – Souths are not easily rattled. They are the most experienced Toyota Cup outfit with almost 700 games combined. The Rabbits will be cool and calm throughout.<br><br>Key Raider – I have long rated Haydon Hodge as an attacking weapon but his defence against North Queensland was just as impressive. He will need to tackle well against South Sydney’s backline.<br><br>Join myself and Stuart Raper for all the action from 5pm EST on Saturday.<br><br><b>What the bookies say...<br></b><br>TAB Sportsbet has Canterbury at $2.75 to win the premiership, ahead of Souths at $3, the Warriors at $3.50 and Canberra at $7.<br><br>This week Canterbury is at $1.60 to beat the Warriors ($2.30) and South Sydney $1.36 against Canberra ($3).<br><br>TAB Sportsbet’s live option on the Toyota Cup is also proving popular.<br><br>It might be the way to go.<br><br>You could have got $8 on Canterbury and South Sydney “in the run” during their more recent comeback wins!