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Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell recaps all the action from Round 23 in the Toyota Cup.

The power of one

The Toyota Cup is serving the Warriors well, especially in the fullback position.

Kevin Locke played 30 games in the Under 20s during 2008-09 and scored 18 tries. Now he’s the No.1 at NRL level and set to show his speed and skill into next month’s finals.

Glen Fisiiahi played 28 games during 2009-10 for 21 tries. ‘The Fish’ has also tasted NRL but last weekend scored three tries as Auckland went to second in the NSW Cup.

The current NYC custodian Omar Slaimankhel has played 32 Toyota Cup games for 36 tries. His side is charging towards the Minor Premiership and back-to-back Grand Final victories.

Locke, Fisiiahi and Slaimankhel have helped the Warriors become the only club never to miss the Toyota Cup finals and, in a small way, New Zealand rugby league into a very competitive position.

Slaimankhel’s statistics are worth expanding on:

  • He leads the Toyota Cup with 25 tries this season.
  • He’s failed to score in only five of his 21 games in 2011.
  • He’s scored seven doubles and one hat-trick this year.
  • He’s scored in his last seven games.

Not bad for someone born in Kalu Khurd, Pakistan.

Omar only made the switch to rugby league in 2010 and is eligible for the Toyota Cup again next year.

Who’s next

The Warriors were brutal as they beat Newcastle 44-8 to go four points clear on top of the table.

Aside from scoring eight tries, they left Korbin Sims with a broken jaw.

Newcastle coach Garth Brennan said it best: “Tough night. Wow, they are a team.”

Next stop for the Warriors is Penrith on Saturday night. At least the Panthers have found some form, beating Melbourne and Wests Tigers in consecutive weeks.

Earlier this season, however, they gave up 56 points against the Warriors.

No penalty paid

The Warriors might be the team to beat but the Roosters have become the first team in 2011 to win eight games in a row.

They did it despite being hammered 8-1 in the penalty count against St George Illawarra. Form forward Ethan Lowe gave the Roosters a dream start with tries in the 9th and 29th minutes. He also made 41 tackles.

Lowe has scored in his last six games – including a double against the Tigers and Dragons.

He crossed just once in his first 12 games of 2011.

The Roosters play Cronulla is this week’s match of the round. It’s second against fifth. Between them, they’ve won 15 if their last 16 games. Get to the SFS early on Saturday.

Sharks alarmed

Cronulla will be happy to dodge Canterbury during the Toyota Cup finals.

Like the Roosters, the Sharks were chasing eight straight wins on Monday, but fell to the Dogs 48-16. It’s the second time this year Andy Patmore’s men have beaten Cronulla, after a 30-26 result in Round 15.

They’ll look to build more momentum against Manly on Sunday. The Sea Eagles are in a different kind of battle as they fight to avoid the wooden spoon. They climbed off the bottom with a 26-16 win against Parramatta.

The performance included two-try hauls to Newyear Patiole and Jason Annear but the real star was Magnus Stromquist  – 23 runs, 210 metres, 34 tackles.

Watch his battle with the Dogs pack on Fox Sports 2 from 11.30am EST as part of NRL Sunday. We’ll also give you the story behind Newyear!

Close call

A month ago it was tempting to declare the top eight as cut and dried. How it has changed.

Just two points separate Wests Tigers in 7th, Parramatta 8th, Brisbane 9th and St George Illawarra 10th. It shows the importance of Sunday’s western Sydney shootout between the Tigers and Eels.

The banana bender boast

The Broncos Under 20s already have something special to celebrate in 2011 – a clean sweep of their Queensland rivals.

Having already downed the Titans, 46-14 and 32-16, Brisbane made it a double against the Cowboys, 46-24 and 42-16.

That latest result saw Matthew Berwick become the fourth Toyota Cup player to score four tries in a game this season. (He joins Kyle Feldt, James Tedesco and Jack Wighton).

Dane Gagai’s three try-assists and 11 tackle breaks will also need to be stopped by Newcastle on Monday. It is another finals-defining game.

My turn to party

Canberra coach David Hamilton had a rough night last Saturday, still tossing and turning at 3am as a party raged nearby.

“It wasn’t my kind of music,’’ he groaned on Sunday, shortly before his Raiders ripped South Sydney apart. They bolted clear 34-0 at halftime and won 46-14, to avoid a new club record seventh straight loss.

Maybe ‘Hammo’ was in the right mood to return serve on his neighbours later that night.

I’ll ask him when we cover the Raiders trip to the Gold Coast. You can see it as part of Super Saturday from 3pm EST on Fox Sports 2.