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Fox Sports’ Matt Russell previews Toyota Cup grand final
By Matt Russell
September 30, 2009 Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell has his final look at the National Youth Competition for season 2009 with a preview of Sunday’s Toyota Cup grand final.
What, where, when
Wests Tigers v Melbourne Storm
Sunday, 2.15pm (EDT), ANZ Stadium.
How they finished
Melbourne (third) - 19 wins, five losses, 42pts.
If they win on Sunday, Melbourne will finish on an eight-game winning streak. The Storm have lost just one game in three months. Like Parramatta’s NRL team, it has won 10 of its last 11 games. In its last three outings, Melbourne has scored 140 points.
Wests Tigers (fourth) - 15 wins, one draw, eight losses, 35 pts.
The Tigers have been able to bounce back all season. They lost their first game of the year 50-10 but now find themselves in the last game of the season. They lost in the first week of finals against Brisbane Broncos but have since thrived in sudden death against Canberra and St George Illawarra. The Tigers have won nine of their last 12 outings. Since August, their sequence has been lwwlwwlww. Unless they snap that, Melbourne will win the premiership.
Head to Head
The teams have clashed twice this season for one win each - the away team winning on both occasions.
In round six, Melbourne raced home in the last half hour to win 38-22, scoring seven tries to four.
In round 15, Wests Tigers won 38-28 thanks to a second-half treble from Robert Lui. This time it was seven tries to five.
Perhaps the Tigers can take most from their head to head meetings - after all, their victory was the most recent and at a venue called The Graveyard.
One on one
Like the NRL, the Toyota Cup grand final brings the competition’s best two fullbacks together.
Wests Tigers’ Jake Mullaney is the proud owner of 19 tries from his last nine games - and 27 from 26 games for the season. That is also the most. He is the competition’s leading 2009 scorer with 309 points. Mullaney has a freakish ability to feed off his forwards.
The Thunderbolts’ Gareth Widdop is second on the season’s points tally with 278. He hasn’t scored tries the same frequency as Mullaney - 15 - but he sets them up magnificently, often via deft kicking. His performances in the finals have underlined his potential. In the first week of finals he mowed down Luke Capewell with a classic cover tackle, before performing a one-on-one strip as marker moments later. Melbourne scored from that possession and the game was over.
Uncanny X men
Both teams have their game breakers.
Prop Andrew Fifita brings size, strength and skill to Wests Tigers’ front row. It is part of the reason he’s scored 16 tries this season. When opposition line-ups have had enough of him, coach Grant Jones brings twin brother David off the bench!
Backrower Simon Dwyer scored two tries for the Tigers in week three of the finals against St George Illawarra. He runs a fantastic line and the offloads are common but rarely forced.
Five-eighth Robert Lui is a robust and skilful playmaker who, like all good players, seems to have time to spare. That’s why he played three NRL games for the Tigers late in the season and returned an even better player.
Melbourne’s five-eighth Dane Chisholm has three clear assets - speed, speed and a bit more speed. Blink and he’s gone. There is also some real substance to him as footballer. He scored five tries in the first week of finals against South Sydney!
Melbourne backrower Robbie Rochow started as a centre and now combines the positions perfectly. Big and strong, he runs wide with speed and skill. He cut Souths to ribbons.
Every team wants a winger who just can’t help scoring tries. Matt Duffie has 24 tries in 22 games this year including five trebles - the most recent in week three of the finals.
Incredibly, neither grand finalist made 2008’s top eight. If the first and only Toyota Cup grand final is any indication, we’re in for a thriller. In the inaugural decider Canberra beat Brisbane in the eighth minute of golden point 28-24. It was a sensational match-winning play as Mick Picker chipped across field for Jarrod Croker before he offloaded to a thundering Jarrad Kennedy.
Head to Head: Storm $1.40, Tigers $2.90.
Line @ $1.90: Storm -7.5, Tigers +7.5.
Join myself, Gary Belcher and Stuart Raper as we call all the action. We’re live and uninterrupted from 2pm EDT.
The Tigers have already had a fairytale season, exceeding their own expectations with an exciting but young line-up.
The Thunderbolts are part of a standout year for Melbourne, which also made the SG Ball and NRL deciders.
Like too much of the NRL in 2009, maybe the final day is going to be remembered as a Stormy one.
I don’t really think it matters what Matt Russell thinks, we’ve been underdogs in each of the Semi Finals games so far so it seems to suit us. Fifita twins, Woods, Dwyer, Shirnack and Curran to have big games and we’ll get up in a close one!