After a week off for rep footy round the NRL competition is back and so are our Zero Tackle Power Rankings. Our number one is running away with the rankings but competition for spots otherwise is red hot.
1. Rabbitohs (Last week: 1)
The Bunnies did it tough in horrible conditions but ultimately pipped the Cowboys at the post in Townsville. The one-point win sees the Rabbits sit just two points off the top of the table with a bye in hand over the Dragons. They now have eight straight wins and look set for a top four finish at the very least. Adam Reynolds was the difference on the back of a perfectly worked 30 metre field goal but it was his big men that again laid the platform.
2. Dragons (3)
The Dragons now sit two points clear at the top of the competition ladder after a hard fought win on a bitterly cold Thursday night in the Gong. Ben Hunt put a horror Origin week behind him laying on the match-winning try in the final moments. All of those who backed up from Origin played well despite the Dragons inability to wipe the Eels off the park as many expected. This was a tough win in tough circumstance and a win you don’t really link with the Red V. Good signs.
3. Storm (4)
Cameron Smith wins yet another close game. How many times has that been written over the past ten years? The Storm edged the Roosters in a brilliant finish to what really wasn’t the most attractive of contests. Ryan Hoffman and Cameron Smith, two of the Storm’s most senior players, combined to pull off two monster plays to capture the points. Once again it was good to see the Origin stars back up here and play well. I’m a fan of the week turn around.
4. Roosters (2)
Only a last minute scramble and a missed penalty goal from Latrell Mitchell cost the Roosters victory here on Friday night against the Storm. Given Mitchell’s massive past few weeks it’s tough to put blame on the kid but to miss a penalty goal from in front at this level is tough to take. All the stats here were pretty even but it was strange to read the Storm delivered nine offloads to one from the Roosters. This must feel like one that slipped away.
5. Sharks (7)
Oh how different the feeling could be this week for the Sharks. Had Edrick Lee not crossed for a match-winning try in the final minutes, the Sharks would be eighth and looking over their shoulder right now. Instead they’re looking at another finals series after a big win on one of the game’s hardest away trips. Valentine Holmes is starting to look like a genuine fullback which is a scary thought. The Sharks were able to win without Wade Graham and Luke Lewis. Good signs.
6. Warriors (6)
The Warriors should be frustrated. Not at a controversial forward pass call but at themselves. Leading 12-0 in the blink of an eye, the Warriors let this game slip. They had all the momentum and should have been 20-0 up and out of reach. Instead they completely lost control of the game and let the Sharks back into it. Although they lead late, they just couldn’t number up in the final defensive play and let the game slip. This should never have come down to a last minute refereeing decision.
7. Broncos (8)
The Broncos are another side who should be feeling very different waking up on Monday morning. They were gone for all money. 16-0 down at half time, 10 points down with 15 minutes to go, their season was about to get a lot more difficult. Some Anthony Miford magic and a Canberra fade out means the Broncs are now all but finals bound and in a good spot. Young Issaco is a future star and one the Broncos are looking to tie down long-term.
8. Panthers (5)
Danger signs at the foot of the mountains. The Panthers had a brilliant opportunity to turn their form around coming off a horrible performance against the Roosters. They hosted an out of sorts Manly side in front of a big home crowd. Unfortunately it was not to be and the Panthers are now one from their past three. In honesty it’s not that bad but this is a game that the Panthers should have won to put pressure on the top two.
9. Titans (11)
Here come the Titans!? The Gold Coast side have now put together two amazing performances and wins away from home. Following up their big win over the Dogs they were able to put the Tigers away to the tune of 30 points to 12. The Titans big men absolutely whacked the Tigers off the park. Ryan James and Jai Arrow were monsters and bossed the game in a big way.
10. Raiders (9)
I’m not even a fan of the Raiders and I’m frustrated at this side right now. Their inability to close out games kills the rugby league fan inside me. They had a 16-0 win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium yet let it slip. You just knew they’d find a way to lose even with a 10-point lead with 15 minutes to go. Even when it got close and looked as though they might hold on, you just knew they’d forget how to tackle. Start planning for 2019. Yuck.
11. Tigers (10)
The Tigers had it all to play for. A win puts the clear of the chasing pack for the eight. Robbie Farah returned to the Tigers supposed spiritual home. They hosted a Titans side who with all due respect are hardly a top side. Yet they drop a 30-12 loss in front of a sold out crowd. That sums the Tigers up. They’re just not there yet. They scored two pretty amazing tries but that was it. Too much lost ball and a forward pack who were played off the park.
12. Sea Eagles (14)
Manly delivered the shock result of the round by defeating the Penrith Panthers in front of their own fans. Three tries to one has the team song being sung out Brookvale way. Although their season is all but gone this was a good win over a top side. Incredibly they made 39 tackle breaks and conceded only 19. That’s incredible for a side that is obviously suffering. DCE had a big game and is now back in the Origin arena. The Turbo brothers continue to lead the way.
13. Bulldogs (16)
The Dogs ended a horror week with a great win over the Knights. The Dogs played some amazing football in scoring 36 points in front of a big Newcastle crowd. All the Dogs’ young players stood up in difficult circumstances. Rhyse Martin kicked six from six and looks a monster weapon for the Dogs moving forward. Young Lewis made his debut in exciting fashion while Nu Brown looked good in his return to the top grade. Encouraging signs for the Dogs.
14. Knights (12)
Saturday evening was an absolute shocker for the Knights. They were played off the park by the Dogs while losing their star and main man in Ponga for up to a month. Conor Watson was good but the bye week has come at a good time for a side badly missing their number seven in Pearce. Ese’ese is a stand out in an otherwise pretty badly beaten Knights pack. The less said the better.
15. Cowboys (13)
The Cowboys played more like their 2017 selves in a brave one-point loss to the high flying Bunnies yesterday afternoon. Thurston looked like his old self again controlling the game for the majority. Unfortunately it was his missed field goal after the siren that consigned the Cowboys to yet another loss. Coen Hess looks a far different player than the monster who made a huge impact in 2017.
16. Eels (15)
The Eels should have won on Thursday night, yet didn’t. That sums this club up in 2018. They’re just not good enough. Hayne continues to impress on his return to the game while Tim Mannah had a monster game. That said the Eels halves, well paid and highly respected, weren’t able to stand up when it counted.