1. Roosters (Last week: 1)
On the back of five straight wins the Roosters hold onto their number one ranking but possibly handed over their premiership favourites tag. They held the Raiders, the competition’s best attacking side, to just one try, yet could only score 12 points themselves. Without Luke Keary they looked clunky and although there won’t be any alarm bells ringing at Bondi, the tri-colours just let a chance to go two points clear at the top of table fall by the wayside. Their next two weeks suddenly become far more difficult.
2. Storm (4)
The Storm ended their two-game losing streak and returned to the NRL summit after a 20-4 win over the Eels. Despite the scoreline they didn’t have it all their own way and look to have lost at least Will Chambers until the second week of the finals. I don’t want to be negative about one of the title favourites but their efforts over the past three weeks haven’t been great and they struggled to put away a wooden spoon side. Cameron Munster needs help in attack. That said, they lead the comp while being well under form. Eik.
3. Sharks (6)
I can’t get a read on the Sharks. At times they are able to tear sides apart with ease yet then forget how to tackle and hold onto the ball. They started as if they’d put 80 on the Cowboys yet only ended up victors thanks to a late numbers advantage. To their credit they found a way to win. Matt Moylan’s break in the final ten was the difference. It lead to a sin bin that saw the Sharks dominate for the remainder of the game. If they get those backline plays right they’re going to trouble anyone. Until then though, they could either be there Grand Final day or on Mad Monday sooner rather than later. That Fifita blow up was all time.
4. Rabbitohs (2)
After flying high for over a month the Bunnies have now had a reality check. If we’re being honest the Bunnies are probably a little under done as they prepare for finals and they’ve been sans almost their entire back line. That said, the record shows two losses to title contenders in the past fortnight. Two losses to opponents they will likely encounter in September. They have a few star players a little down on form but they have two very winnable games as they prepare to play finals. A top four spot is still there despite a drop off. Should welcome back some cattle also.
5. Panthers (3)
I feel as though I over ranked the Panthers last week and as a result they are too high this week also. They don’t feel like the fifth best side in the competition right now. They’ve been winning but the circumstances have been fire. This weekend they were unable to produce the late fight back. A 20-12 home loss to the Knights has ended their top two hopes and dented their top four aspirations. They play the Warriors and Storm in their final two fixtures. You can’t help but think they really missed an opportunity here.
6. Broncos (8)
The Broncos are in a similar position to the Sharks. One moment they’re running ridiculous, sweeping back line plays and look to be playing with 14 players. The next minute they’re dropping off tackles and scrambling for their lives. Against the Bunnies they were great, then awful, then pretty good. Ultimately they won and put distance between themselves and the Tigers, which is the main thing, but does anyone believe the Broncos will be a player come finals time? I honestly can’t answer that either way.
7. Warriors (5)
If the Sharks and Broncos are hard to read then I dead set give up when it comes to the Warriors. They will be kicking themselves after letting a game against the Bulldogs end in defeat. With all due respect to the Dogs they’ve been out of the finals race for months while the Warriors still had faint top four aspirations. Right now you’d be looking over your shoulder if you’re a Warriors fan given the club’s history come this time of the season. RTS looks dangerous every time he touches the ball. Some of the missed tackles though were awful.
8. Dragons (11)
The Dragons are back in the winners circle after recording victory over the desperate Tigers at their spiritual home. That’s a real positive given the past month of football, which has not been good. They managed to win without Gareth Widdop while Ben Hunt had an absolute nightmare. The result and performance will hardly send a shiver down potential opponents’ spines but it should do the Red V and their fans the world of confidence. With the Dogs and Knights to come, the Dragons could be heading to the finals on the back of three straight wins.
9. Tigers (7)
The Tigers did all the hard work over the past month-or-so to set up this clash. A full house on a Saturday afternoon and evening in a contest against a very vulnerable opponent in the Dragons. Fast forward 80 minutes and it just was not to be. They tried hard, they tried everything but this Tigers side still lack the polish to genuinely be in the finals footy discussion. The Sea Eagles and Bunnies stand between them and possible finals. They need to win both games. I’m not sure they can.
10. Titans (10)
I do love a Titans attacking spree. After a horror opening 38 minutes they produced 20 minutes of ridiculous football at Lottoland. The Titans, long out of the finals race, could have turned up and phoned it in. Despite an early try it looked as though they had given the way Manly put them to the sword. A try just before half time and one hell of a half-time talk must have sparked something in them as they were untouchable in the opening half of the second half. It’s a shame they’re not players in the finals race as they’re so much fun to watch.
11. Raiders (13)
THE RAIDERS WON A ClOSE ONE!!! I know, I can’t believe I typed that either. Despite only scoring one try they managed to hold the red hot Roosters to 12 points. This is the kind of win that could have shaped their season but we all know the reason the Raiders aren’t playing finals. This was a marquee win and something that should kick start a win streak as they end their season. There is no player more frustrating than BJ Leilua.
12. Eels (9)
The Eels have enjoyed a wonderful few weeks but it all came crashing down on Friday night. They were in the contest up to their eyeballs against the premiership leading Storm but fell short. I really wish the Eels had shown this level of commitment and keenness earlier in the season. King Gutho scored an absolute highlight reel try but otherwise they failed to cross. Says it all.
13. Knights (15)
The Knights delivered a huge blow to the Panthers by defeating the home side on Saturday afternoon. Kalyn Ponga had a brilliant game in the halves and will surely end the season there with Mitch Pearce back and in form. Up the middle the Knights forwards bossed their bigger name opponents around. This is another performance that will have Knights fans asking ‘what if?’.
14. Bulldogs (16)
On his 22nd birthday, Lachlan Lewis delivered a picture perfect field goal to the sink the Warriors while putting space between his club and the dreaded wooden spoon. A brilliant run from Josh Morris put the home side in field goal territory and it was the youngster who took the shot. The Dogs showed some real enterprising play during this game. Reimis Smith looks a real talent. Rhyse Martin was the difference here with the boot. Despite conceding five tries and only scoring four, Martin was able to land 5/5 from the tee.
15. Sea Eagles (12)
Ignore their position on the ladder and here in the rankings, the Sea Eagles are the worst team in the competition right now. Their second half ‘effort’ on Friday night made an absolute mockery of the once proud club. In a game where the Turbo brothers scored 900 combined fantasy points the rest of the squad just did not go with them. Conceding seven tries, at home, to a Titans side struggling and missing their fullback, not much else needs to be said. The dismal crowd on Friday night showed that the fans have give up and it was mirrored on field by their players.
16. Cowboys (14)
The Cowboys were brave and at times were the better side on Saturday evening against the Sharks. JT’s farewell game in Sydney and New South Wales will be marked down as a loss despite his best efforts. A late Matt Moylan break lead to a Cowboys sin binning and from there it was only going to be one result. It’s incredible to think the Cows now sit in last place with two games to go. Games against the Parra and the Titans stand between them falling from beaten Grand Finalists to wooden spooners in the space of 12 months.