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Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell believes defending premiers NZ Warriors could be even better than last year. He recaps all of the action in the Toyota Cup.

Once were... and still are!

The Warriors are going to take some beating as they charge towards back to back Toyota Cup premierships.

If anything, coach John Ackland has an even better team than 2010.

On Sunday, I watched them score the first five tries to blow South Sydney away, winning 38-18.

Paragraphs could be written about the players’ skill and the way they combine as a team.

Instead, let’s run through a few key statistics.

  • Eleven times this season, they’ve kept the opposition scoreless in the first 20 minutes, including the last eight games.
  • They’re unbeaten in 18 games in New Zealand.
  • They are the only team in NRL or NYC to score more than 600 points this season and have an average winning score of 36-18.
  • Fullback Omar Slaimankhel gives them the Toyota Cup’s leading tryscorer. Winger DJ Collier is the competition’s leading pointscorer.

Because the Toyota Cup is an Under 20s competition, success is meant to be cyclical. Teams are expected to mature towards a successful season, before players graduate, and the two or three year process starts all over again.

I put that point to John Ackland off-camera on Sunday. He raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and dismissed it with: “Not in New Zealand.”

The young Warriors get great exposure, continue to attract players from rugby union, and are setting the NRL team up for years to come.

You can see the Warriors at home to the Raiders on Fox Sports 2 from 9.45am EST this Sunday. It’s their first meeting of 2011.

Where’s the remote?

I wonder if North Queensland coach Kristian Woolf is a fan of the Skyhooks?

“Horror movie right there on my TV. Shocking me right out of my brain.”

The early competition favourites have played four TV games this season and twice been exposed by the team running last.

On Saturday, they led Gold Coast three times but were beaten 30-20, as the Titans climbed off the bottom of the ladder.

In Round 14, they were beaten by Manly 22-20, who also filled bottom spot at the time.

It doesn’t end there.

One of North Queensland’s worst performances was a Round 7 loss to Cronulla. You guessed it, live and exclusive on Fox Sports.

In fact they are lucky not to be 0 and 4 on television, having escaped 20-18 against Canberra in Round 13.

Woolf will be relieved to know his side is not listed for TV again up to Round 24.

Come the finals though, he’ll hope to ditch the Skyhooks for Queen.

Fit and firing

Melbourne forward Tohu Harris signalled his intentions for the back end of the season with three tries in the Storm’s 30-10 win against Brisbane in Round 20.

Harris was a standout forward in 2010 but had the start of 2011 ruined by shoulder surgery.

He’s back and getting better each week, underlined by Friday’s 14 runs, 152 metres and 11 tackle breaks.

Maybe he can help Melbourne challenge the Warriors during the finals.

The Storm sit second; have won three in a row;  have a good run home; and inflicted the Warriors heaviest lost of the season, 40-10 in Round 7.

Still crowing

The Roosters extended their record winning run to five by beating Wests Tigers 30-10 and suddenly find themselves in the top eight.

If Jason Taylor’s men beat Canterbury on Saturday, rival teams will really sit up, if they’re not already.

Ethan Lowe – the most capped Rooster at Toyota Cup level – scored two more tries against the Tigers.

He’s scored five in the last month.

Lowe impresses plenty of people at the Roosters and not just for his rugby league.

He’s put University studies on hold to pursue an electrical apprenticeship and also pours plenty of energy into fitness work with a group of disadvantaged people.

Throw in some NRL training and he’s a busy boy.

You can see if Lowe continues his scoring when the Roosters host the Bulldogs as part of Super Saturday on Fox Sports 2.The Roosters beat the Dogs 22-10 in Round 3.

Latest model... a peach!

How long until the name Peachey is back in the NRL at Cronulla?

Tyrone Peachey is doing everything possible to emulate his famous uncle David, who played 12 seasons and 227 games for ‘The Shire’.

In Saturday’s 38-10 win against Newcastle, the backline had a party as Peachey powered away in the forwards.

He ran for 150 metres, broke 12 tackles and nailed 23 tackles.

The Sharks have won five in a row and are up to third.

Big weekend for...

Six teams are separated by four points mid-table – the 7th-placed Roosters, 8th-placed Brisbane, 9th-placed Parramatta, 10th-placed St George Illawarra, 11th-placed Canberra and 12th-placed Newcastle.

None of them play each other this weekend but two met on Monday night.

The Dragons’ 50-12 win against Canberra has the Raiders in real danger of missing the finals for the first time in Toyota Cup history.

It might be last roll of the dice for Canberra in New Zealand and Newcastle against Gold Coast.