Just when you thought the greatest game of all couldn’t top its Round 1 efforts, Round 2 of the 2018 NRL season shocked, awed and entertained.
For those who haven’t seen power rankings before, positioning is based on results, expectation, quality of opposition, performance and other factors. Early on moves can be quite sharp, although it’ll settle in after a month or so.
1. Wests Tigers (Last week: 3)
Anyone who said they had the Tigers 2-0 after the first two rounds is either the club’s number one ticket holder, or a liar. For the second straight week a single try was enough to deliver victory to the high flying Tigers. A late try to halfback Luke Brooks secured the most unlikely of victories since, well last weekend’s win over the Roosters. This Tigers outfit refused to give up despite conceding a late go-behind try to the Storm, who were playing in front of a huge crowd on a huge occasion. David Nofoaluma was immense on his return to first grade while Josh Reynolds will genuinely struggle to crack the run-on side.
2. New Zealand Warriors (Last week: 1)
The Warriors incredibly slip from the number one despite being 2-0 based purely on the quality of opposition the Tigers have beaten. The 20-8 victory was again spurred on by Shaun Johnson although it was RTS who was this week’s chief destroyer. He made three line breaks, over 200 metres and scored a try to top it off. The Warriors are playing some brilliant football highlighted by their 28 offloads and only 26 missed tackles. Those stats are impressive, especially so early in the campaign.
3. St George Illawarra Dragons (Last week: 2)
The Dragons are probably the form side of the competition right now after a second impressive victory, this time away from home against local rivals the Sharks. At 14-0 down the Dragons looked as though they were a different side from last Thursday’s destruction of the Broncos, but fought back to claim victory late in front of a big Thursday night crowd. Widdop and Hunt were again in everything, but it was the way the side as a whole controlled the ball during a ten minute stint with 12 men that showed what this side is all about.
4. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 5)
The Panthers, again, overcame a 14-0 deficit to snatch victory in the second half at home in incredibly hot conditions. A late Tyrone Peachey try send the Panthers fans into raptures as the Panthers won a game that looked as though it has slipped away. Nathan Cleary leads the Dally M medal count with the maximum six points while Peter Wallace had a blinder. Josh Mansour looked back to his menacing self and ran for almost 200 metres. The Panthers travel to ANZ Stadium this Friday and will be hoping to put together an 80 minute performance.
5. Newcastle Knights (Last week: 7)
For the second week in a row the Knights have won a tight game, this time away from home. The Knights attack is on fire right now with Ponga, Watson and Pearce leading the way. Guerra and Fitzgibbon topped off huge nights with tries, while Moga opened his Newcastle account. Sione Mata’utia scored the match winner in the 73rd minute with the Knights able to hold on from there. What a difference an off-season makes.
6. Manly Sea Eagles (Last week: 9)
Talk about bounce back. Manly came back from their golden-point loss to the Knights in the best possible way, thumping bitter rivals the Eels to the tune of 54-0. DCE, Marty Taupau and Jake Turbo were absolutely unstoppable in the rout although there wasn’t a bad player on the field in maroon. Cherry-Evans scored a try and kicked nine goals for a personal points tally of 22. Jake T will surely be the first player picked for the Blues if he continues this form. Total and utter destruction in ridiculous conditions.
7. North Queensland Cowboys (Last week: 6)
The Cowboys were one goal-post width away from starting a perfect 2-0 over quality opposition. Cowboys players were celebrating as it looked like Thurston had again manufactured a win from the jaws of defeat only for Scott Bolton to be tackled into the post and lose the ball. On the balance of play the result was probably fair as the Cowboys struggled to contain James Roberts and the Broncos halves, but the loss will hardly sound alarm bells in Townsville. A grand final replay this Thursday night awaits them.
8. Gold Coast Titans (Last week: 8)
The Titans were brought back to earth following their incredible round one win, losing a close contest in New Zealand. Forced to travel and play without superstar Ash Taylor the Titans were brace in the face of big odds. The Titans will welcome back both Taylor and Jarrod Wallace for their home clash against the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. Jai Arrow has been a brilliant recruit, again making an impact will ball in hand, to the tune of almost 200 running metres.
9. Brisbane Broncos (Last week: 15)
The Broncos bounced back from a horror round one performance by defeating ‘local’ rivals the Cowboys in the club’s first hit out at Suncorp Stadium. James Roberts was breathing fire on the back of brilliant work from both of his halves. The Broncos looked a completely different side to that of their round one efforts. Tevita Pangai Junior may be the early season revelation after another class performance. Lost Jordan Kahu early but Jamayne Isaako looks the real deal in both general play and from the kicking tee. Should see Jack Bird return soon.
10. Melbourne Storm (Last week: 4)
The Storm suffered a shock loss to the Tigers on Saturday night despite it being a milestone game for club legend Billy Slater. It looked as though the Storm were just waiting to click into gear and snatch it late, and when Vunivalu scored after the Tigers were reduced to 12 men it looked like that time had come. Some ridiculous Tigers defense held the home side out despite their every effort to win it for Slater. They won’t have to wait long to correct the errors though as a grand final replay takes place on Thursday night.
11. Sydney Roosters (Last week: 16)
The Roosters produced the level of football we expected from them last week, opening their account of 2018. James Tedesco was immense, almost unstoppable. Cooper Cronk opened his tri-coloured account and looked much more at home in the colours. Truth be told the Roosters never looked troubled in the five try to two romp and look as though they still have another gear or two left in them. That’s more like it.
12. Cronulla Sharks (Last week: 10)
The Sharks now sit 0-2 and look a long way from a polished outfit despite an impressive pre-season. After running up a 14-0 lead the home side allowed the Dragons to boss them completely in the second half. A near-perfect first half was completely forgotten as errors and stupid penalties cost them any chance of victory. Shane Flanagan summed it up by storming up the tunnel after yet another lost ball denied the Sharks a chance to snatch it late. The Shire won’t want to see another performance like that second half again.
13. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (Last week: 12)
Despite another spirited effort the Bulldogs enter their round three clash against the Panthers without any competition points to show. The truth is they were never really in at as the Roosters controlled the action for the large majority of the contest. Club captain Josh Jackson made a mountain of tackles, two line breaks and scored a try in a mammoth performance. Moses Mbye is shining at fullback. Aarons Woods hair cut looked a million dollars. The signs are there.
14. South Sydney Rabbitohs (Last week: 14)
The Bunnies will be kicking themselves after letting a 14-0 lead slip to come up short for the second week in a row. For large portions of the game the red and green were the better side in ridiculous heat but couldn’t get the job done. Adam Doueihi had a positive debut for the club and looks the goods. Damien Cook is the clear front-runner for the Origin number nine jersey after yet another massive effort. It’s hard to pinpoint where it went wrong here but those Burgess boys really need to hold onto the ball.
15. Canberra Raiders (Last week: 13)
The Green Machine managed to turn on the attacking flair yet for the second weekend in a row suffered defeat against less fancied opposition. Two weeks in a row the Raiders scored 28 points yet conceded 30. That’s grim reading for Ricky Stuart whose answer seems to be blaming officials. Elliott Whitehead has a second straight brilliant game, again finding the try line (twice) despite being moved into the centres after an injury to Leiulua. Blake Austin looked good which is a good sign.
16. Parramatta Eels (Last week: 11)
The scoreline on Sunday afternoon did not make for pretty reading for Eels fans as they were played off the park in their 54-0 loss to rivals the Sea Eagles. The less said about this game the better but Eels fans will be smarting after a horror effort lead to an even worse result. There were few positives here other than that the result could have been far worse if the Manly players didn’t tire from scoring tries and having to run back to half way. Yuk!
The third instalment of the Fins Up Podcast will be available HERE. It is a look through the wonderful world of Rugby League through black, white and blue eyes.