Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell analyses the week that was in the 2011 Toyota Cup competition.
The Fabulous Barba Boys
What a week for Ben and Marmin Barba, who celebrated try scoring doubles in their respective Round 7 victories.
Marmin’s contribution was crucial as Parramatta’s Toyota Cup team edged the Titans 18-16. He’s crossed five times in six NYC starts.
His older brother Ben shone for Canterbury in a 36-26 win against South Sydney. He’s scored five tries in two weeks and raced to seven Dally M points. All that amid the excitement of welcoming his second child.
Toyota Cup observers wouldn’t be surprised.
Ben spent two seasons in the Under 20s where he played 26 games. His 37 tries and 340 points are still the most by a Canterbury NYC player. Only five others have scored more points in the history of the competition and all needed a stack more games.
Marmin still has a way to go but has already beaten cancer to prove determination shouldn’t be a problem.
The prospect of having both Barba boys on the same NRL field is one to dream about.
Shane Shackleton’s last gasp NRL try completed a thrilling day at Parramatta Stadium.
Earlier the Eels Under 20s needed a penalty in the 78th minute to down the Titans 18-16.
Parra had surrendered a 16-0 lead before a darting Dean Blackman caught Gold Coast offside to allow Jason Whebe to kick the winning goal.
It’s the second time in as many weeks Parramatta has won by two points. Considering the Eels have also been beaten three times by six or less, coach Matt Cameron might need a stress test.
He’ll hope for a more convincing winning margin against the Dragons on Sunday.
The late Parramatta penalty denied Gold Coast what would have been a second straight draw.
After finishing 14-14 with the Tigers in Round 6, the Titans seemed set for a 16-all draw with Parra.
Still, Rod Patison is making huge strides with his team.
Gold Coast conceded an average of 44 points per game for the first five weeks. Over the last two, that average is down to 16.
If it continues, the Titans' first win of the season might come this week against Jason Taylor’s Roosters, who also lost 18-16 last start.
See the game with Simon Woolford and myself as part of Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2. We’ll chat with JT about his coaching role and hopes for the future.
Rugby League Professors
The Brisbane Broncos must be setting some sort of rugby league record.
Eighteen squad members are at University, including nine of the starting 13 against the Tigers last week.
Maybe they all had assignments due because they were thumped. See below.
Miller v Williams
The Tigers signalled they might not be in the bottom half of the ladder for long by upsetting Brisbane 30-16.
The Tigers went into the game with just one win while Brisbane entered with just one loss. The form guide went out the window as the Broncos fell behind 24-0.
Hooker Patrick Politoni scored important tries either side of halftime while Jacob Miller’s return was crucial.
Miller’s matchup with Sam Williams in Canberra on Sunday will be interesting. They two halves are back in the NYC after NRL experience.
Canberra has used Nathan Massey as a five-eighth this year but he was back in the No.1 against Newcastle on Sunday and proved the difference.
Massey played fullback for the Dogs in their strong campaign last year and was in top form against the Knights.
At 24-all, Massey collected a wayward field goal attempt to set up a try for Jack Wighton to blow the game open. Then he was on the end of a desperate final kick from Newcastle and raced away again for his second try of the afternoon.
Massey carries a famous rugby league surname and Ron Massey is his grandpa... but not the same Ron Massey that was so tight with Jack Gibson and now Wayne Bennett.
Best in NSW
Cronulla fans might be doing it tough in the wake of four straight losses and a string of injuries for their first-grade side but two words should make them feel a bit better.
The Sharks are the top team in New South Wales and fresh from a big win against premiership favourites North Queensland.
They won 36-20, after leading 36-4, with all six tries going to different scorers and Chad Townsend nailing every conversion.
On paper they should beat South Sydney on Friday and could head into the bye in the top four.
For the first time this season we have an outright leader. Melbourne.
It was a near perfect Storm on Anzac Day in a 40-10 win against the Warriors.
The sides entered the round as joint premiership leaders but Melbourne scored six unanswered tries to swamp the defending premiers.
Hooker Slade Griffin scored three.
Another big win against the Knights on Saturday would set Melbourne up for a Suncorp Stadium blockbuster against Brisbane in Round 9.
As I’ve mentioned previously, two of Melbourne’s best young forwards, Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean, are still to return from injury.
Off The Leash
South Sydney must have fancied its hopes of an upset win against Canterbury when up 16-12 at halftime.
Instead they Bunnies were mauled 38-16 as the boys from Bankstown scored 26 points in 24 minutes!
After that there is only one message for Brisbane on Friday night: beware of the Dogs.
Two To Watch
Whoever gets the head coaching job at Penrith next season should be made aware of Blake Austin and Harry Seijka.
The Panthers Toyota Cup halves delivered three tries between then against Manly in Round 6 to continue their impressive form.
Austin has been likened to Luke Lewis and Seijka was signed from Bathurst on a big deal after his talents were identified.
The club has high hopes for both and if Penrith is to reach the Toyota Cup finals, it will be largely because of them.
They face a stern test this week – the Warriors in New Zealand.
You can see them on Fox Sports 2 from 9.30am EST on Sunday.