Rugby League continues to produce some amazing results. We now have only two undefeated sides and two teams yet to register a win in 2018.
The table continues to change every week, as do the Zero Tackle power rankings.
1. St George Illawarra Dragons (Last Week: 3)
The Dragons now sit proudly both the NRL table and more importantly our power rankings on the back of a season-best performance this past Sunday. Widdop, Hunt, Lafai, Dufty and co had an absolute field day, tearing the Titans to shreds. Widdop’s 5 try assists and hattricks to Lafai and Dufty made for an entertaining afternoon for those wearing the Red V. Many jokes have been made re the club being March premiers but no club in the competition can be as happy as the Dragons right now.
2. New Zealand Warriors (Last Week: 2)
The Warriors snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a late try and back-to-back field goals in an amazing effort in Canberra. A late try to the re-energised Issac Luke ensured a close finish but it was the Warriors pack who motored their side down the park twice allowing Shaun Johnson to first tie and then ice the game with less than a minute to go. New recruits Peta Hiku and Tohu Harris are having an incredible start to the season. 3-0 with their best middle forward to return. Things are looking good across the Tasman.
3. Wests Tigers (Last Week: 1)
This Tigers side continues to impress, shock and awe despite dropping their first competition points on Friday night. A controversial golden-point loss won’t dent the confidence of a side that is flying high. Incredibly the Tigers managed to hold the Broncos try-less for the entire 87 contest. Unfortunately the Tigers discipline let them down, conceding four penalty goals. The decision to award the match-deciding penalty goal is one for great debate but what can’t be questioned is the Tigers commitment, especially in defense.
4. Melbourne Storm (Last Week: 10)
Here come the Storm! This week’s big movers, the premiers Melbourne Storm sent a message to the rest of the NRL on Thursday night with a 30-14 win over the Cowboys. Despite a rampaging Coen Hess, the Storm returned to winning ways is spectacular fashion. A late try possibly flattered the score-line a little but there can be no questioning that the Storm were the far better side. They looked on point after a horror result last weekend against the Tigers. The Storm face a second straight Grand final replay of sorts this Friday when they play the Sharks.
5. Penrith Panthers (Last Week: 4)
The Panthers won’t be pushing any panic buttons despite their first loss of the season on Friday evening. That said they do face a huge hurdle in the upcoming weeks with star half Nathan Cleary ruled out for up to 10 weeks through injury. Again the Panthers fell behind early but this week they were not able to claw back the early lead. A late Josh Mansour try set up a possible third straight late come from behind win but it was not meant to be. 51 missed tackles will be a concern for coach Anthony Griffin as will his sides inability to start well.
6. Brisbane Broncos (Last Week: 9)
The Broncos did just enough on Friday night to pip a desperate Tigers side in golden point. Four penalty goals and a field goal to youngster Jamayne Isaako made up the 9 points Brisbane scored. There may be worries that they were unable to cross the try-line but ultimately the side found a way to win the close one. Penalties conceded aside the Broncos won all the stats and on paper look deserved victors. Andrew McCullough was tireless in defense making 61 tackles. Jack Bird’s debut should help him settle into his new role also.
7. Sydney Roosters (Last Week: 11)
The Roosters have now together back to back efforts that we expected to see. They were ruthless against the high-flying Knights and sent a message in the process. The fact they won by 30 points is made even scarier by the lack of involvement by James Tedesco. They still have another gear to go up yet. Luke Keary put himself in Origin discussions with a wow of a display while Blake Ferguson again ran for big metres and scored a double.
8. Newcastle Knights (Last Week: 5)
The big question for Knights fans is was Sunday evening’s loss the crashing back to Earth or was it just a blip in the new greener pastures? The 30 point loss does not undo the good work of the first two weeks. Unfortunately five-eight Connor Watson will sit out the next two months due to injury although the Knights do have back up ready in Brock Lamb. It doesn’t get any easier for the red and blue who face the table-topping Dragons this Sunday afternoon.
9. North Queensland Cowboys (Last Week: 7)
The Cowboys were thoroughly outplayed in last Thursday’s Grand Final rematch. Coen Hess was an absolute monster and looks set to become the game’s next big thing. Jason Taumalolo’s influence has been down and needs to improve over the coming weeks. Michael Morgan will be better for having 80 minutes under his belt in the new season. Hardly panic stations for the Cowboys yet especially considering their draw thus far, but they’ll be looking to bounce back at home against the Panthers.
10. Manly Sea Eagles (Last Week: 6)
Manly came crashing back to earth after a near perfect win against the Eels. They were played off the park to the tune of 34 points to 6 against the Bunnies and have had plenty of off-field distractions thrown in on top. Focusing purely on the 80 minutes, there were some horror signs in that ‘effort’. It looked a case of turn up and it’ll happen again after the 50+ point win over the Eels. Jackson Hastings capped off his return to the top grade with a try in the game’s only real positive for the Sea Eagles.
11. Cronulla Sharks (Last Week: 12)
The Sharks have their first win of the season. That is about as excited as they should be after they edged the Eels in a dire affair. Chad Townsend scored all the points for his side while Paul Gallen looked back toward his best. Jayden Brailey was the Sharks star and dominated the middle of the park, running almost at will. He’s certainly on the way to becoming something special. Valentine Holmes input was up which is a big positive, but otherwise it was a win and not too much more for the Sharks.
12. Bulldogs (Last Week: 13)
The Dogs also got their 2018 campaign up and running with a two-point win over the fast-finishing Panthers. Despite leading the Panthers 14-0, the Dogs managed to beat the curse and were well worth their two competition points. Josh Morris scored a beautiful, long-range intercept try on his 200th appearance for the club. Moses Mbye continues to sparkle in his new fullback role while Marshall King looked assured on his starting debut. There were some very promising signs for the Dogs in this performance.
13. Bunnies (Last Week: 14)
The Bunnies are on the board. I feel as though I’ve under graded them here but they were magnificent on Saturday afternoon. They had the performance of the round wrapped up until the Dragons went to town. Opening the scoring in the first minute the Rabbits never looked back. Robert Jennings ran in three tries, with Kennar scoring two. Adam Doueihi has filled in brilliantly at halfback. Angus Crichton stepped up and looked like a monster against a well contained Manly pack. Great win.
14. Gold Coast Titans (Last Week: 8)
I absolutely loathe dropping a side by six places based on one result but the Titans are lucky the Raiders and Eels are still win-less or they’d probably have dropped further. They were smashed from pillar to post by the Dragons on Sunday and now look an absolute mile off where they were in round one. Ash Taylor returned but was kept quiet and looked frustrated. Bryce Cartwright is yet to find any sort of attacking influence for his new club. I’d suggest a move to the edge is not far away. They weren’t in that game for a second.
15. Canberra Raiders (Last Week: 15)
The Raiders, for the third week in a row, faded late to lose a close one despite scoring plenty of points. Alarm bells should be ringing in the capital after a winless in three start to the season that consisted of games against the less than fancied Titans, Knights and Warriors. Stuart has, for the third straight week, directed his anger at the officials but if obviously deflecting. Elliott Whitehead has been incredible this season and has been arguably the Green Machine’s best.
16. Parramatta Eels (Last Week: 16)
The Eels weren’t able to win a dire game on Saturday night with it all on the line and therefore remain a very well deserved 16th here. Backing up from a Sea Eagle hammering, everyone expected the Eels to come out firing. They did not. Hayne’s injury was ill-timed after his move to fullback, but there can be no excuses here. The Sharks should have put them away, so the fact they kept it close is a positive, but they’ve now only scored one try in 160 minutes of football. Not good for a side many, myself included, saw as a genuine threat.