Fox Sports Toyota Cup commentator Matt Russell looks at the Toyota Cup finals.
Sixes and Sevens
From their first touch last Friday, the Cowboys were ready to play finals footy. Kyle Feldt made a break from the opening hit-up and Wayne Ulugia finished that set with a try.
They led Wests Tigers 30-16 at halftime and won 48-26. In between, halfback Michael Morgan and five-eighth Michael Parker-Walshe dominated.
Parker-Walshe scored three tries to make it 24 for the season while Morgan made it seven tries in his last seven games.
It was an historic night. Feldt passed Jake Mullaney (472) as the highest pointscorer in Toyota Cup history. Still eligible for Under 20’s next year, Feldt sits on 478.
Ulugia and Moses Pangai celebrated their 71st Toyota Cup games - a number which equals the record previously owned outright by former Dragon Thomas Hancock.
Hip Hip Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell can play footy! The Warriors centre finished one point behind Jack De Belin in Player Of The Year voting but attracted more 3-point hauls (8) than anyone in the competition.
He was man-of-the-match again as the Warriors ended Newcastle’s season 54-6. Hurrell had 16 runs, 227 metres, 3 tries, 4 try-assists, 12 tackle-breaks, 3 offloads, 3 line-breaks, 1 try-save, 1 error... and all that despite a leg injury late in the game.
If any of the other 15 clubs are wondering, he’s already wrapped up by the Warriors for 2012.
One Way Traffic
What was it about the southern end of the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday?
All 90 points across both grades were scored in the same in-goal. In the Toyota Cup, Canterbury led 12-nil at halftime before Cronulla scored 28 unanswered points.
It was the same in NRL as North Queensland went ahead 8-0 before being swamped 42-8 by Manly.
Maybe everyone just feels more comfortable heading towards Wollongong!
The longest winning streak in Toyota Cup history is over.
The Roosters 11-game run started after a loss to Melbourne and also finished with defeat against the Storm.
Playing at AAMI Park, the home team trailed 6-0 and 10-4 before winning the second half 22-0. The longer the game went the better Melbourne looked.
It was just the result Dean Pay needed after winning two of the last six games and dropping consecutive home games.
If his team can survive a trip to Brisbane on Saturday, it will be back in Melbourne the following week.
Week 2 Preview
Cronulla (3) v Roosters (5)
Sydney Football Stadium, Friday, 5.15pm EST.
Live Fox Sports 1 with Michael Ennis.
Head to Head: The Roosters won both meetings this season – 28-19 in Round 10 and 44-6 in Round 24.
The Prize: A game against North Queensland for spot in the Grand Final.
Week 1 Highlight: Against Canterbury, Team Of The Year selection Tyrone Peachey delivered a team-high 18 runs for 198 metres and a game-high 36 tackles. He was rewarded with the final try.
Why They Can Win: NRL experience can provide a massive boost. Cronulla have two players in that department and one of them in a key position – halfback Chad Townsend and centre Stewart Mills. With Townsend steering the ship, the Sharks completed 22 of 23 sets in the second half against Canterbury.
The Question Mark: Twice in the last few weeks, the Sharks have been kept scoreless in the first half. They risk being blown away by the free-scoring Roosters unless they are fired up from the outset.
The Main Man: Tyson Frizell has a big future. Hard-running and direct, the second rower lifted Cronulla against Canterbury and will be crucial against the Roosters big bodies.
Week 1 Highlight: Ethan Lowe’s purple patch shows no signs of stopping. After scoring one try in his first 12 games this season, he’s scored 11 in his last 10. On top of that, he had a team-high 18 runs for 140 metres and a game-high 37 tackles.
Why They Can Win: An 11-game winning streak has made the Roosters and confident team. A confident team is a dangerous team. Against Melbourne, they backed themselves on their own goal-line, threw long passes, fought each other in the air for possession and so on.
The Question Mark: After playing the most physical final in Week 1 and having their winning streak stopped, will the young Roosters fall flat?
The Main Man: Tautau Moga scored a stack of tries in SG Ball earlier this year and now has 18 in 12 Toyota Cup games. After a two-week suspension, he’s back!
Melbourne (4) v Canterbury (6)
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 4.15pm EST.
Live Fox Sports 1 with Brett Kimmorley.
Head to Head: Melbourne has beaten the Dogs twice this season – 34-30 in Round 4 and 30-24 in Round 18.
The Prize: A game against the Warriors for a spot in the Grand Final
Week 1 Highlight: The Storm must feel they played themselves back into form on Sunday. They trailed for most of the first half but stayed patient and found winning momentum on the back of an 82 per cent completion rate.
Why They Can Win: The Storm has just beaten the competition’s form team and will be highly motivated to win again, as it will earn a return to Melbourne to play before the NRL team in Week 3.
The Question Mark: Sean Loxley is a very good fullback but is filling in at half after a broken leg to Ben Hampton. He’s played the last five games at No.7 and Melbourne has won three of them. Can he keep it going through sudden death finals?
The Main Man: Tohu Harris missed the start of the season after surgery and is now playing his best footy when it matters most. Hard running and difficult to stop, he has scored tries in his last three games.
Week 1 Highlight: The Dogs two most experienced players led from the front again. Forwards Josh Jackson and Dale Finucane ran for 142 and 153 metres respectively and topped 25 tackles each.
Why They Can Win: The Dogs finished the regular season with the best defence in the competition. They gave up 458 points at an average of 19 per game.
The Question Mark: What will be different this time? The Dogs have lost twice against Melbourne this season, albeit by only four and six points.
The Main Man: Andy Patmore. The most experienced coach in the Toyota Cup raised 100 games last weekend. He has to have the Dogs ‘believing again’ after they gave up a 12-point lead against Cronulla on Saturday. He also has to work out a way to beat Melbourne for the first time this season.