What A Week #1
Who said club footy falls flat during the representative season?
Round 14 was my most memorable of the Toyota Cup season.
It started at Brookvale on Saturday when form suggested North Queensland should thrash Manly.
It looked as if the Cowboys would win big when they raced clear 20-10 early in the second half.
Instead, Manly fullback Jorge Taufua scored two late tries – doing well to ground the ball on each occasion – and his second presented Taylor Matthews with a tricky conversion to win 22-20.
Matthews kicked it and the team running last beat the team that would have gone joint first.
Footnote: Like Saturday, Manly and North Queensland were also 10-all at halftime when they met in Round 8. That night, the Cowboys went on to win 38-10. What a difference six round makes!
What A Week #2
Less than 24 hours later, Round 14 became even more remarkable in Brisbane.
The Broncos raced clear of Canberra 30-4 at halftime. We were asking ourselves, Brisbane by how many?
The next thing we knew it was 34-34, after the biggest Toyota Cup comeback in history.
Four times teams have come from 24 points down to win. Never 26.
The Raiders didn’t win but they would have if Chris Medcalf nailed a late field goal attempt.
He can hardly be criticised, kicking 5 from 6, including a pressure conversion to level it up.
Mitchell Frei, kicking at 80% this season, landed 3 from 7 for Brisbane after a tireless display at prop that included a game-high 47 tackles.
Footnote: There is no golden point in Toyota Cup premiership rounds but there was last time Brisbane and Canberra finished 80 minutes all square. Canberra won the 2008 Grand Final against the Broncos in extra time 28-24.
Canberra’s conveyor belt from Toyota Cup to NRL shows no signs of breaking.
Josh Papalii scored his first two NRL tries in quick succession on Sunday as part of the Raiders’ failed NRL comeback.
After two seasons and 25 NYC games, Papalii has played four NRL games and gets better each time.
St George Illawarra’s Alex McKinnon scored two tries on debut for the Dragons on Friday night.
He’s in his fourth year of Toyota Cup after making his debut as a 16-year-old in 2008.
McKinnon has been used as a back-rower in the Under 20’s but played in the centres against the Titans.
Maybe the Dragons will one day have two red-headed NRL centres with Nathan Green also impressing in the 20’s.
Firstly, they have to keep McKinnon from switching to Newcastle.
Hip Hip Hurrell
Here’s a ‘smokey’ for 2011 Player of the Year.
The Warriors centre has been outstanding for the New Zealanders this season and continued on his way with tries against the Tigers in the 77th and 79th minutes.
They blew the score out to 30-16.
Hurrell now has eight tries in nine games. More importantly, perhaps, Hurrell is the only player to average more than 200m run every game (214m).
He is well clear as the competition’s leading tackle breaker.
He is 3rd in terms of linebreaks and top 10 in offloads.
Hurrell has switched from rugby union where he represented Auckland Secondary Schools.
A rugby team mate at Auckland Grammar was Omar Slaimankhel, who is also now at the Warriors and leading the NYC try-scoring ranks.
Round 16... Here We Come
It is hard not to get ahead of ourselves as we head into Round 15.
A week later, the top two are set to do battle in both competitions.
Much has been made of St George Illawarra’s looming ‘date’ with Manly on Fox Sports’ Monday Night Football.
On the same weekend, the Warriors host the Storm in a Toyota Cup blockbuster.
The Warriors beat the Tigers last weekend and will stay top if they beat North Queensland this Saturday.
A volcanic ash cloud stopped the Storm’s game against the Roosters on Monday but it might be a hidden blessing.
Melbourne heads to Leichhardt on Sunday before the trip across the Tasman a week later. Bring it on.
Origin 2 on Wednesday will involve four Toyota Cup graduates.
Good luck to William Hopoate (33 Toyota Cup games), Tim Mannah (17 games), Trent Merrin (45 games), Jharal Yow Yeh (33 games).
Don’t miss the Toyota Cup television this weekend, especially if the last fortnight is any indication.
We’ve had a 1-point thriller, a draw and two games decided by two points.
On Saturday, Newcastle hosts Penrith, 10th v 11th.
The Knights’ beat West’s Tigers at Leichhardt last start and could go into the Top 8 with victory.
On Sunday, the top two Sydney sides do battle, Canterbury and Cronulla at Homebush.
Brett Kimmorley will provide his expert comments in both games.
You’ll see them from 3.00pm EST on Saturday and 11.30am EST on Sunday on Fox Sports 2.