Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
The dust has settled from Round 2 - but is the NRL competition table a true reflection of the strength of performance of the 16 teams? NRL.com re-ranks the clubs based on what we saw last weekend.
1. Storm (Last week 2)
Melbourne have been the best side of the past decade and over the first two weeks of the competition they have shown us the how and why of their dominance. They haven’t played particularly well, and they’ve won both matches by a single point, but nonetheless they are one of just three teams left undefeated and knocked off two very handy outfits in Manly and Penrith. Craig Bellamy’s men know how to get two competition points – plain and simple.
2. Roosters (3)
It’s no secret the Roosters love a home game against Parramatta (they’ve put 106 points on the Eels in their last two meetings at Allianz Stadium) and the reigning premiers certainly looked like they blew out the post-Grand Final cobwebs as they racked up 10 tries, though will face a sterner test this week against the Broncos.
3. Manly (4)
Scored themselves a win they had no right to up at Gosford last Friday, and while they may not have shaken the perception they can’t win without the Stewart brothers, grinding out a win over Souths certainly does no harm to your confidence.
4. Rabbitohs (1)
No side wants to peak in Round 2, but the Bunnies were in no danger of that with a disjointed and error-riddled performance against the Sea Eagles. Will be looking for Adam Reynolds to bounce back after an off night with the boot and to build on the promise he and halves Dylan Walker showed in Round 1.
5. Broncos (7)
The Broncs are sitting pretty in second with two wins over sides that both played finals football last year, and look to have their defence in order having conceded only 12 points in each match. With Barba and Hunt still finding their feet but improving fast it’s only a matter of time until their attack clicks into gear as well.
6. Panthers (5)
The mountain men can hold their heads high after pushing Melbourne all the way at home where they have only lost twice in the last 18 months. Ivan Cleary will be hoping Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace can continue to build on their combination given they have only played the one match together.
7. Dragons (10)
Even the most one-eyed Dragons fan wouldn’t have envisaged their side at the top of the NRL pile this year, even if it is so early in the season and they have kicked off 2014 with one of the softer draws in the comp. Gareth Widdop, Brett Morris and the forward pack are all looking very sharp, which is very good news for a side that averaged under 16 points a game last year.
8. Bulldogs (8)
Barely had to get out of second gear in putting the Sharks to the slaughter on Monday and wily old Des knows they will need to step up again against the Panthers in Penrith. Will become more dangerous over the coming weeks as they welcome back Inu, Kasiano, Laifai and Eastwood.
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9. Cowboys (5)
Should get themselves back on track when they host the struggling Warriors this Saturday, and have made it clear they expect more from halfback Robert Lui to take some of the pressure off Johnathan Thurston. Last week with the match on the line against the Broncos the skipper could have used someone else trying to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
10. Raiders (14)
There’s a reason Ricky Stuart is pulling out all the stops to entice Anthony Milford to stay in Canberra, and his attacking spark was the difference in an improved Raiders outfit picking up their first win last weekend. Will be out for a big showing in front of their home fans for the first this year.
11. Knights (9)
We’re agreeing with Wayne Bennett when he says the Knights aren’t playing all that badly despite being 0-2, and they showed enough against the Raiders in a cracking game of footy to think that a win isn’t too far around the corner. Whether that is this week on the road to Melbourne is another matter.
12. Tigers (16)
The Entertainers are back apparently. Luke Brooks and James Tedesco got hearts racing in carving up the Titans at the weekend, though the real acid test for the boom Tiger cubs comes this week in the form of Souths and a trio of Burgess brothers who’d love nothing more than to run through the youngsters.
13. Titans (12)
The Gold Coast boys were nothing short of awful in their first home match and will be in for a long, lonely year if they keep serving that up. The speculation around Dave Taylor’s weight and commitment has started early this year and it’s in both the club’s and big fellah’s best interests to produce the type of performance we all know he can.
14. Eels (11)
Just like Wile. E. Coyote in the Looney Tunes the Eels are back to the old drawing board after a healthy dose of reality from the Roosters. And just like the cartoon super-genius it’s hard to see if they’ll ever bag themselves that elusive roadrunner, or in Parramatta’s case two decent performances in a row.
15. Sharks (13)
Hark, what’s that sound? It’s D:ream’s hit 1993 tune ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ of course, and it’s been playing all week after the Sharks 38-point thumping at the hands of the Bulldogs. Thankfully Peter Sharp’s side welcomes back Todd Carney this Saturday, the first of a number of stars who will return for the Sharks over the coming weeks.
16. Warriors (15)
Matt Elliott questioning his side is a fair indication all is not well across the ditch, and neither is the fact they’ve conceded an average of 33.5 points against the two worst attacks of 2013. It won’t get any easier for the Kiwis either as they travel to Townsville this week, and they’ll be staring down a third straight defeat if they can’t improve markedly against the Cowboys.
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