Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell looks at all the action from the Toyota Cup.

Young Shark a star in the making


Cronulla five-eighth Jake Walsh used Round 12 to deliver the best Toyota Cup debut I’ve seen. I had to keep checking the statistics to make sure the game against Melbourne in Melbourne was in fact his first in the Under 20’s. It was. Every time I looked.

Walsh, on scholarship from Cootamundra, jumped high to catch a bomb for the Sharks' first try before playing a key role in several more. Even during a break in play, he was front and centre in the team huddle barking instructions.

Not bad for a player who had just made the significant step up from SG Ball. In fact the Sharks promoted six SG Ball players and have used five already.

Halfback Chad Townsend had another fine game as well, reminding Cronulla officials of his presence at a time the Sharks are being linked to the likes of Jeff Robson.

Townsend’s goal kicking has been outstanding - 32 from 34 this season and six from six on Sunday - including two from the sideline against the Storm.

While talking halfbacks, Brett Kimmorley took the opportunity to rate Tiger Jacob Miller as the best Toyota Cup No.7 he’s seen! Who's to argue with a man who played 307 first grade games over 16 years?

Storm's streak snapped

The Toyota Cup heads into Round 13 with joint leaders after Cronulla beat Melbourne.

It snapped the Storm’s seven-game winning streak. It was also Melbourne’s first home loss of the season.

Celebrating almost as hard as the Sharks were the Warriors, who are level with Melbourne on 20 premiership points but ahead on points differential.

The two leaders head to Sydney this weekend – the Warriors to play the Roosters at the SFS and the Storm to meet the Rabbitohs at Homebush.

In three weeks they play each other at Mt Smart.

Brilliant Barba

Marmin Barba has been a busy boy, beating cancer, becoming a dad... and scoring tries. Lots of them.
Last week against Newcastle, Barba scored another double, his third in a row and fourth in five weeks.

He now has 12 tries for the season, two behind the Toyota Cup leader, the Warriors' Omar Slaimankhel. Barba has also gone past older brother Ben, who leads the NRL with 10 tries.

Can you imagine the Barba boys playing backyard footy as kids? It would have been 96-all.

This week Marmin plays St George Illawarra at Parramatta on Friday and Ben tackles Manly at Homebush on Saturday.

Helpless hat-tricks

Not often do players score three tries but finish in beaten teams. It happened twice in Round 12. Bryce Hegarty crossed three times but was beaten by a Manly ambush at Suncorp Stadium 36-26 – only the Sea Eagles’ second win of the season.

Jordan Rankin scored three against a stubborn Canterbury but went down 26-24, in what would have been another big boilover.

The Roosters also went close to an upset, beaten 22-20 by North Queensland in Townsville.

It was that sort of weekend.

Fijian flyer

Keep an eye on Wests Tigers winger Marika Koroibete in coming weeks. Two words sum him up. Raw. Exciting.

He’s a fast, hard-running, winger who could be anything. He accelerates into the defence and given open territory won’t be run down very often.

He scored again as the Tigers beat St George Illawarra 34-22.

Koroibete has crossed for four tries in three Toyota Cup games.

He was due at the Tigers last November but arrived in March – put it down to Fiji time – and as a result has only come into the team in recent weeks.

Mighty Matts

Good to see more Toyota Cup players stepping up to NRL.

Matt Srama delivered a typically busy performance for the Titans against the Bulldogs. His 36 tackles were only beaten by Ben Ridge and Michael Ennis.

Matt Groat got a start for the Tigers after rousing form in the Under 20s. He’s been an Australian Schoolboy and NSW Under 18s representative for the last two years.

Big games coming up

Two Toyota Cup contests stand out this weekend.

Cronulla hosts Brisbane on Friday night. The fifth-placed Sharks can knock Brisbane out of the eight, with the Broncos winning just one of their last five games.

On Sunday, Canberra is home to North Queensland, where two more top-eight teams are fighting for form.

The Raiders have lost four of their last six and are off the bye.

North Queensland has played its last two games at home, losing to Parramatta before edging out the Roosters by two. Hardly the form you’d expect from the early premiership favourites.

The Cowboys have been buoyed by having five players named in the Queensland Under 18’s – the most of any club.

The full under-18s Maroons side is:
1. Zac Santo (Nth Qld Cowboys)
2. Mitcham Ardler (Gold Coast Titans)
3. Tautau Moga (Sydney Roosters)
4. Jerome Leedy (Norths Devils)
5. Matthew Berwick (Brisbane Broncos)
6. Luke Abdul-Rahman (North Qld Cowboys)
7. Kurt Mann (Newcastle Knights)
8. Chris Grevsmuhl (Nth Qld Cowboys)
9. Cameron Cullen (Brisbane Broncos)
10. Stephen Coombes (Brisbane Broncos)
11. Jack Kelleher (North Qld Cowboys)
12. Iain Riccardi (Penrith Panthers)
13. Caleb Binge (Norths Devils)
14. Daniel Alvaro (Brisbane Broncos)
15. Heymel Hunt (Gold Coast Titans)
16. Anthony Gadd (Nth Queensland Cowboys)
17. Francis Molo (Norths Devils)

Canberra plays North Queensland on NRL Sunday from 11.30am on Fox Sports 2.

Super Saturday

Not for the first time this season, Gold Coast last weekend scored more tries than the opposition but lost the game 26-24 against Canterbury.

Samisoni Langi landed four from four for the Dogs while Jordan Rankin and Jackson Springer managed only two out of five between them.

It must be tough to take.

After beating Manly and pushing Canterbury, last placed Gold Coast appears to be improving.

On Saturday the Titans play Penrith, who snapped a three-game losing streak to pip Souths 18-16.

Will Rankin or Blake Austin star for their respective sides or will someone else put their stamp on the game?

NSW and Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward will make his commentating debut alongside me for the Titans v Panthers clash. I'm looking to ask him about the great form of the Dragons, his thoughts on Origin and what NSW need to do to win Game II and also ask him about a remarkable field goal he kicked for the Roosters in an aged competition Grand Final.

Two battling teams collide on Fox Sports Super Saturday from 3pm EST on Fox Sports 2. Join Soward and myself for all the action.

All Toyota Cup games will be replayed on League TV, while live scores for all Toyota Cup matches are accessible at NRL.com.